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Eric Williams 

On August 3 ist, 1962, Doctor Eric 
became tKe first Prime Jvtinister of* the country 
which he had. led to independence. As an 
historian and the long acknowledged authority 
on the "W'est Indies, he viewed the trans- 
formation of the former colony into a nation 
from the perspective of its historical develop- 
ment. His aim in writing this book in the 
months before the 'Declaration of Indepen- 
dence was to provide his countrymen with a 
national history, -with a basic document about 
their past \vhich could serve as a guide for 
their future. 

Beginning with an account of the Amer- 
indian cultures existing in Trinidad and 
Tobago at the time of their discovery, Doctor 
"VC^illiarns goes on to analyze the failure of 
Spanish policy in the territory, the period of 
French influence in Trinidad and occupation 
of Tobago, and the century and a half of 
British rule, giving a detailed picture of the 
islands* slave based economy and showing 
how, in effect, this structure "was naaintained 
after Emancipation both by the conditions 
imposed on African labor and the ordinances 
governing indentured labor imported from 
India in the nineteenth century. He then 
describes in full the methods of Crown Colony 
government, and concludes with the story of 

the coming of Independence. 

continued on backjftap 


History of the jpeojplo of 
Trinidad and Tot>ago 


5 10 15 20 MILES 



Roads - 
Railways -*MH 
Landovtr /,500ft. 










Published in the United States of America in 1964 
by Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., Publisher 
64 University Place, New York 3, N.Y. 

All rights reserved 
1962 by Eric Williams IN TRINIDAD 
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 64-13390 

Printed in Great Britain 


Introduction page vii 

Foreword ix 

















Conclusion 278 

Brief Bibliography 283 

Index 287 




Introduction to the London Edition 

This book tells the story of the travails and tribulations of a British 
Colony which, after a hundred and sixty-five years of crown colony 
rule, achieved its independence on August 31, 1962. 

It is the story of the misrule of metropolitan bureaucracy and the 
indifference of metropolitan scholarship. Trinidad and Tobago 
attracted metropolitan attention only in periods of riot and disorder 
(1903 and 1937), only when the discovery of oil made it an object of 
interest to the British Navy and British capitalism, only when its in- 
valuable natural harbour, Chaguaramas, made it a useful pawn to be 
traded by Britain against American aid in the Second World War. 

These developments apart, Trinidad and Tobago was merely a 
crown colony, forgotten and forlorn. No British statesman of sub- 
stance was ever distracted by it from larger and more important 
issues, unless it was Joseph Chamberlain, and his connection with 
Trinidad and Tobago is probably the least reputable phase in his 
career. No British scholar found it worth his while to pay any atten- 
tion to the history and potential of Trinidad and Tobago, unless it 
was Froude who came and went on a tourist visit leaving only 
froudacity behind. 

To metropolitan officialdom and the metropolitan press, Trinidad 
and Tobago emerged, after the revelations of the bankruptcy of 
colonialism by the Royal Commission of 1938, merely as a colony 
with a higher national income than its neighbours which, by imperialist 
criteria, did not need the economic aid provided under Development 
and Welfare by the United Kingdom. 

Colonial nationalism, in India, Africa and elsewhere, has given 
high priority to the rewriting of the history purveyed by metropolitan 
scholars and to writing that history where the metropolitan country 
has ignored or bypassed it. The very fact of National Independence, 
therefore, made this history of Trinidad and Tobago mandatory. Its 
publication, moreover, throws light on one of the dark crannies of the 
long West Indian association with Britain which British scholarship 
has seen fit to leave unexplored. 

This history of the People of Trinidad and Tobago will, it is hoped, 
explain to people, within and outside the Commonwealth the policy 
of the new Independent Commonwealth country. That policy can be 
very simply stated - to remove the vestiges of colonialism and change 
the colonial pattern and mentality in every sphere. 

As this introduction to the London edition is being written, a Com- 
mission of Enquiry comprising international experts is assessing the 
legacy left behind by British policy which, in law and in lease, 
in finance and in operation, ignored the interests of Trinidad and 


The nationalist movement in Trinidad and Tobago has in the past 
five years re-examined all the postulates and policies of colonial educa- 
tion, in the primary school, in the secondary school which is now free, 
and in the teacher training college. The University of the West Indies, 
that British damnosa hereditas which sought to export St Andrews 
to Jamaica, is being steadily West Indianised and made to serve West 
Indian needs and aspirations. 

The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, currently on an 
extensive tour meeting the people to ascertain their grievances, 
receives daily first hand evidence of the distortion and injustice of 
the crown colony agricultural system and the exploitation of the 
villages. The small man, a pariah under the British regime which, true 
to its slave-owning antecedents, emphasised the latifundia and the 
plantocracy, is coming into his own as a citizen as of right and not 
of grace in his independent country. 

Hookworm and malaria which debilitated the population in crown 
colony days and were responsible for their low productivity have now 
been exorcised in the nationalist wind of change. The water supply, 
a feature of one of the greatest financial scandals in the crown colony 
era, is being rapidly improved. The telephone system, handed over 
to a British company through one of the more brutal uses of the 
imperial power, is now the property of the People of Trinidad and 
Tobago. What passed in the colonial catalogue as roads are now being 
opened up and made accessible to the expanding population. Tobago, 
transferred to Trinidad by metropolitan fiat for a paltry 4,000, now 
holds pride of place among the smaller islands of the Caribbean as 
a result of the unaided development efforts of the Government of 
Trinidad and Tobago. 

All this has taken a mere six years, from the absurd constitution 
of 1956, approved by the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to the 
Independence Constitution, worked out by the two political parties on 
the basis of proposals submitted by the People in their organisations 
in 'constituent assembly'. If, in this transition to orderly and rational 
progress, we have erred, it is to the British People above all that we 
would look for sympathetic understanding, for, after all, we are merely 
trying, unaided by Britain, to succeed where Britain has hopelessly 

Port-of -Spain ERIC WILLIAMS 

Trinidad and Tobago 
August 31 1963 



This book originated in a personal conviction that it would be an unfor- 
tunate handicap in the field of international relations and a great mistake 
in respect of affairs and domestic relations, if Trinidad and Tobago were 
to enter on its career of Independence without a history of its own, without 
some adequate and informed knowledge of its past, and dependent solely 
upon amateur outpourings in the daily press. 

The writing of this book began on July 25 and was completed on August 
25, except for the index. With such haste in composition and in writing, 
and the attendant haste in printing, it would be surprising if there were no 
typographical errors or failure in some instances to make the necessary 
comparisons and indicate the necessary sequences. In addition, the book is 
twice as long as originally planned but it has been thought better, partly for 
the education of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, partly to forestall 
uninformed challenges, to let the documents speak for themselves and to 
quote them rather than to summarise or condense. 

The aim in writing the book, however, was not literary perfection or 
conformity with scholastic canons. The aim was to provide the people of 
Trinidad and Tobago on their Independence Day with a National History, 
as they have already been provided with a National Anthem, a National 
Coat of Anns, National Birds, a National Flower and a National Flag. 

This history of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, in seeking to inform 
them of their past as an essential guide to their future action, places them 
and their problems at all times in international perspective. There has been 
no hesitation in drawing extensively upon, where necessary, the author's 
knowledge of Caribbean history as a whole, in respect of which he had the 
advantage of an incomplete and unfinished history of the West Indies 
begun some eleven years ago and put into cold storage until more leisured 

Two principal objects have been kept in view in the preparation of this 
National History on the occasion of the Independence of the people of 
Trinidad and Tobago. The first is the author's passionate conviction that it 
is only in unity on essential national issues that future progress can be 
made. Division of the races was the policy of colonialism. Integration 
of the races must be the policy of Independence. Only in this way can the 
colony of Trinidad and Tobago be transformed into the Nation of 
Trinidad and Tobago. 

The second principal object that has been kept in view is the integration 
of the separated Caribbean Territories. Separation and fragmentation 
were the policy of colonialism and rival colonialisms. Association and 
integration must be the policy of Independence. Here the other countries 
of the Caribbean suffer from the same handicap that faced Trinidad and 
Tobago before the preparation of this National History; they do not know 
their past history. As the completion of a history of the entire Caribbean 


area is a task of too vast magnitude to be contemplated in these days of 
intense political activity, it is the author's intention to follow up this 
history of the people of Trinidad and Tobago with similar historical 
monographs for several Caribbean countries. It will be no easy task to 
determine the priorities on which this new assignment should be based. 
But the author is satisfied that similar historical monographs must be 
prepared as a matter of urgency for at least five Caribbean countries 
British Guiana, Jamaica, Cuba, Barbados, and either Martinique or 
Guadeloupe. To this assignment he proposes to dedicate himself in the 
next few months; if only as a hobby, if only to get out of his system some 
of the poison which is perhaps unnecessarily imbibed in political activity 
in countries which have learned only too well the lessons of colonialism. 

It is with this philosophy that the history of the people of Trinidad 
and Tobago is presented, first to the people of Trinidad and Tobago, then 
to their Caribbean colleagues who loom so largely in these pages, and 
then to the colleagues of Trinidad and Tobago on the international stage. 
No apology is made either for its form or its content, or its timing. It is 
the work of a private citizen, whatever his political affiliation or his govern- 
mental responsibility, and neither Party, nor Government, nor individual 
has any responsibility for its contents for which the author alone is respon- 
sible. Many will praise the book, and some will censure it. The author 
wishes to make it clear that he seeks neither praise nor blame, that his 
particular concern is with the people of Trinidad and Tobago with whom 
he is identified in aspirations and achievements, and that he has always 
regarded it as his special responsibility to pass on to them the knowledge 
which would have been unobtainable without them and for which they 
in fact paid. 

If some do not like the book, that is their business. The author is not 
responsible for the calamitous mistakes of the past; when he was in a 
position to advise in a small field, his advice was rejected; now that he 
is in a position to help to make the history of Trinidad and Tobago, 
efforts are made to frustrate him from abroad. Those who make their bed 
must lie on it. The author has made his and is lying on it. This book is 
not conceived as a work of scholarship. It is a manifesto of a subjugated 
people. Designed to appear on Independence Day, August 31, 1962, it is 
the Declaration of Independence of the united people of Trinidad and 


August 31 1962 

Our Amerindian Ancestors 

At the time of their discovery, the archipelago of islands which have 
become known as the West Indies was inhabited principally by two 
Amerindian tribes which had close links with the Amerindians of 
Guiana on the South American mainland. The first of these was the 
Arawaks, one branch of which, the Tainos, was concentrated in the 
Greater Antilles and the Bahamas, while the second, the Igneris, domi- 
nated the Lesser Antilles. Apart from the Arawaks, there was a second 
principal group, the Caribs. A third variant of the Amerindian pattern 
was located on a small scale in Western Cuba, the Siboneys, possibly 
representing a pre-Arawak strain originating in Florida. 

The outstanding general work on the Amerindian culture is a 
Swedish publication, Origins of the Tainan Culture, West Indies, by 
Sven Loven, the 1935 English translation and expansion of his Swedish 
treatise of 1924. In respect of Trinidad itself, our knowledge comes 
from a little masterpiece, The Aborigines of Trinidad, by J. A, Bull* 
brook, Associate Curator of the Royal Victoria Institute and Museum, 
in 1960, representing the results of his excavations in the middens - 
which were both refuse dumps and burial grounds - of the Amerin- 
dians in Cedros, Palo Seco and Erin. Useful information is also 
available from Surinam, not only from archaeological investigations - 
a brief account of which is available in English, the work of D, C. 
Geijskes - but also from a direct study of living Arawak tribes which 
have retreated with the onset of Western civilisation further and 
further into the interior of the country. Examples of the arts and 
crafts, of the life and work of the Amerindians can be seen in the 
Royal Victoria Museum in Trinidad and the Surinam Museum in 

Except for the Siboneys with their primitive shell culture, ignorant 
of stone, pottery and axe blades, and using vessels of shell, the 
Amerindian civilisation of Arawaks and Caribs was essentially agri- 
cultural, representing an important advance in the scale of civilisation 
over the paleolithic period of human history. They cultivated the soil 
by constructing round heaps or mounds of earth, firstly to loosen the 
soil, secondly to protect the roots against the dry season, and thirdly 
for composting with shovelled ashes. 

The national food was cassava. The Arawaks developed the tech- 
nique of changing the poisonous prussic acid of cassava juice into 
a kind of non-poisonous vinegar by cooking it. They called this 
cassareep, and the cassareep, together with one of the known spices, 
the chili pepper, made possible the pepperpot, the Carib tomali, which 
stabilised the alimentation in a high degree and made easier the con- 
sumption of cassava cakes. The Arawaks further developed the grater 



for making cassava cakes. In their development of graters, juice 
squeezers, large flat ovens of coarse clay on which the cassava cakes 
were baked, as well as in the development of cassareep and the pep- 
perpot, the Arawak culture represented essentially an annex to the 
Amerindian civilisation of Eastern Venezuela and Guiana. 

Our Amerindian ancestors in the West Indies were also familiar 
with a variety of other crops. One of the most important was maize, 
from which in certain places a species of beer was brewed. They also 
knew the sweet potato and a variety of tropical fruits such as the 
guava, custard apple, mamey apple, papaw, alligator pear, star apple 
and pineapple. Columbus has stated that he saw beans cultivated in 
Hispaniola, and the Amerindians knew also, among the spices, cinna- 
mon and wild pimento. They introduced peanuts to the Spaniards, 
and it would appear that they were eaten regularly with cassava in 

The Amerindians also knew and cultivated two additional crops 
which facilitated a further development of what we would today call 
civilised existence. They cultivated cotton, which they used on the 
one hand for petticoats, and on the other for the manufacture of ham- 
mocks for sleeping purposes. Dr Bullbrook found a bone needle and 
buttons in his Trinidad researches. The Amerindians knew also tobacco 
which was exceedingly popular among them; possibly in its origin 
it was connected in some way with religious rites. The Arawaks used 
it both for snuff and for smoking, generally in the form of cigars, 
though the pipe was not unknown, while in the form of chewing 
tobacco in rolls it was used as currency by the Caribs. 

Fishing played some part in the economy of Amerindian society, 
and the Amerindians developed the canoe and the pirogue which 
enabled them to move from island to island. In the sheltered waters 
of the Gulf of Paria, the canoes appeared even to have cabins for the 
women. Molluscs or shell fish figured prominently in the Amerindian 
diet, and particularly the chip-chip, as Dr Bullbrook's investigations 
of the middens indicate. But bones representing fish and tortoise have 
also been found. As compared with the shellfish and the fish, bird 
bones, however, are extremely scarce. 

These Amerindians had no knowledge of metals. Their tools were 
of polished stone, bone, shell, coral, or wood - some of their wooden 
artifacts have been fortunately preserved through accidental burial 
in the Pitch Lake of Trinidad. They made pottery and wore orna- 
ments. Dr Bullbrook's exhumations of over twenty burials indicate 
evidence of arthritis and a high incidence of dental caries, but not of 
rickets. Their age would appear not to have exceeded forty years, 
and their height no more than five feet seven inches. They seem to 
have been, however, a people of great physical strength. 

The Amerindians had a simple but well-established family life, in 
which, as in most underdeveloped societies, there appeared to be some 
sexual differentiation of labour. Possibly for religious motives, 
Arawak men alone could collect gold. The women prepared the cas- 


sava, cared for the poultry, brought water from the river, wove cloth 
and mats, and shared in the agricultural work using the primitive 
implement of the Amerindians, the digging stick. 

It is not too clear whether the Amerindian women of Trinidad and 
Tobago displayed as much readiness as has been noticed of the Amer- 
indian women in Hispaniola to promiscuity in their sexual relations 
as some form of welcome to strangers. Nor is it clear whether in 
Trinidad, as in Hispaniola, there was the same accentuation of the 
feminine tendency among male Amerindians which has been noted of 
them in comparison with the- Negroes of Africa. And the records do 
not permit us positively to involve Trinidad in the 470-year old argu- 
ment as to whether syphilis was an export from the Old World to the 
West Indies or an importation from the West Indies into Spain and 
thence into Europe. Dr Bullbrook found evidence of syphilis in his 
exhumations. What is certain is that syphilis would appear to have 
been as prevalent in Guiana and Venezuela as in the Greater Antilles 
and Mexico and that the Arawaks developed a peculiar remedy for 
the disease. 

The Amerindian tribe was governed by a cacique, very much as a 
father governed his family. If Columbus is to be believed, fighting 
between two Amerindians was rare, and so was adultery. The only 
crime punished by the community was theft, for which the punishment 
on Hispaniola, even where petty thefts were concerned, was death, 
the culprit being pierced to death with a pole or pointed stick. 

The Arawaks were a relatively peaceful people, the Caribs essen- 
tially warlike. While both painted their body with roucou, partly no 
doubt to present a terrifying appearance in time of war, the Caribs 
were distinguished from the Arawaks in their use of poisoned arrows. 
The Caribs also have conventionally been described as cannibals. 

As far as Trinidad is concerned, there would appear to have been 
several distinct tribes of Amerindians present in the island towards 
the end of the 15th century. The Caribs tended to settle for the most 
part in the North and West, around what is today Port-of -Spain; two 
of their principal settlements were located in Arima and Mucurapo. 
The Arawaks seem to have concentrated above all in the south-east, 
and it is recorded that on one occasion the Arawaks took Tobago 
from the Caribs. 

Dr Bullbrook, however, challenges the view that there were any 
Caribs in Trinidad. He bases this on the absence of two facts cus- 
tomarily associated with the Caribs. First, he found no evidence of 
the use of bow and arrow, which, in his view, is confirmed by the rela- 
tive scarcity of bird bones in the middens. But he admits the possibility 
that the spines of the sting ray and eagle ray, found in large numbers 
hi the middens, in some cases obviously improved by man, might 
have been used as arrow or lance heads. In the second place he 
emphatically denies any evidence of cannibalism in the remnants of 
the animal foods found in the middens. Not a single human bone was 


Trinidad's strategic situation, tending to make it a meeting point 
of different cultures, was apparent even in Amerindian days. Sven 
Loven, the outstanding authority on the prehistory of the West Indies, 
has written as follows: 

*By the scanty information that we have concerning Trinidad 
at least one thing is brought out clearly, namely that Trinidad, 
through the arrival of Carib elements and cultural influences from 
different directions that never reached the Greater Antilles, had 
attained a development richer in many respects and visible above 
all in their warlike culture, than that which must have characterized 
the forefathers of the Tainos, before, their emigration to the 

It is possibly for this reason that Columbus was able to write on 
his discovery of the island, and at first sight of a group of twenty-four 
Amerindians in a large canoe, that they were well-proportioned, very 
graceful in form, tall and lithe in their movements, whiter than any 
other Indians that he had seen, wearing their hair long and straight 
and cut in the Spanish style. Their heads were bound with cotton 
scarves elaborately worked in colours and resembling the Moorish 
headdress. Some of these scarves were worn round the body and used 
as a covering instead of trousers. 

This was the people who, six years after their discovery in the 
Greater Antilles, were to be brought by Columbus' third voyage into 
the whirlpool of modem colonialism. 


The Coming of the Spaniards 

The discovery of the West Indian islands by -Christopher Columbus, 
acting as agent of the Spanish monarchy, in 1492 and subsequent years 
was the culmination of a series of dramatic events and changes in the 
European society in the 15th century. 

Behind the voyages of Columbus lay the urge to the East with its 
fabled stories of gold and spices popularised by the famous 
travelogues of Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta and the persistent legend 
of Prester John. The disruption of the conventional Mediterranean- 
cum-overland route by the Turks, followed by the domination of the 
Mediterranean by the Italian cities of Venice and Genoa, stimulated 
the desire to find a westerly route to the East. 

The development of nautical technology brought this desire within 
reach of realisation. New maps of the world and new theories of the 
nature of the universe exploded ancient beliefs, fallacies and super- 
stitions. The compass and the quadrant had been devised, making 
possible longer voyages out of the sight of land and outside of 
sheltered seas. Larger ships had appeared, notably the Venetian gal- 
leys; as early as 1417 Chinese junks, of a colossal size for those days, 
had sailed all the way from China to East African ports. 

In the economic sense Europe in 1492 was ready for overseas expan- 
sion; it had the experience, the organisation, or to use the contem- 
pory vulgarism, the know-how. 

Europe in 1492 knew all about colonialism. The Italian republic 
of Genoa had long before established colonies in the Crimea, the 
Black Sea and on the coasts of Asia Minor. A Catalan protectorate 
was established over Tunisia in 1280. The Portuguese had conquered 
Ceuta in 1415, an inversion of the Moslem conquest of the Iberian 
Peninsula. Thereafter they had penetrated all along the coast of West 
Africa until, in 1487, Diaz made his memorable voyage rounding 
the Cape of Good Hope. The Portuguese were thus set for their long 
colonial reign in Asia which ended only with their expulsion from 
Goa by India in 1961. 

Europe in 1492 knew, too, about slavery, which was the normal 
method of production in the medieval colonies of the Levant. Slavery 
existed also on European soil, in Portugal, Spain, and in southern 
France, and the African slave trade in its origins was a transport of 
slaves from Africa to Europe. The slaves were used in agriculture, 
Industry and mining. To such an extent did slavery dominate Portu- 
guese economy before the voyages of Columbus that the Portuguese 
verb 'to work' became modified to mean 'to work like a Moor*. When 
the Spaniards enslaved the Amerindians in the West Indies and later 
introduced Negro slaves from Africa, they were merely continuing 


in the New World the slavery with which Europe was sufficiently 

The European society of 1492 was also conversant with sugar cul- 
tivation and manufacture. Sugar manufacture originated in India, 
whence it spread to Asia Minor and, through the Arabs, to the Medi- 
terranean. The early literature of India is full of references to sugar 
-for example, the Ramayana; and a sugar factory and its machines 
are used to illustrate maxims of Buddhist philosophy. The Law Book 
of Manu, some two centuries before the Christian era, prescribed 
corporal punishment for stealing molasses with fasting for three 
days and nights as penance; a Brahmin was not to be forced to 
sell sugar; a man caught stealing sugar would be reborn as a flying 

With Arab expansion, the art of growing cane and manufacturing 
sugar spread to Syria, Egypt, Sicily, Cyprus, Spain, Crete, Malta and 
Rhodes. But the Arab sugar industry was differentiated in one impor- 
tant particular from that of Christian Europe -it was not based on 
organised slavery. 

The European sugar industry in the Mediterranean, developed after 
Europe's contact with sugar during the Crusades, contained from 
the outset the germ of the colonial system familiar to all West Indians. 
It was an industry established in a distant country and financed by 
local bankers. One of its principal centres was Sicily, where we find 
the University of Palermo in 1419 studying and advising on irrigation 
of the cane, and it was dominated by Italian financiers. Another 
important centre was Cyprus; a 1449 account of the sugar industry of 
Cyprus anticipates the wealth and prosperity of the early West Indian 
sugar planters. Large merchant houses in Italy distributed the sugar 
throughout Europe. 

Europe, too, was politically ready for overseas expansion. The 
European State, with its theories of protection and its grants of char- 
ters and monopolies, developed the economic doctrine of the balance 
of trade and the need for conserving bullion and the precious metals 
by encouraging exports and either reducing imports of luxury goods 
or developing its own local production of such luxury goods. The 
Monarchy, with the aid of the great commercial cities and foot sol- 
diers, had established control of the feudal aristocracy with their 
mounted armies, and the Nation State had begun to emerge. Genera- 
tions of war between Christians and non-Christians in the Crusades 
had developed a militant crusading Church not yet split by schism 
and not yet reformed into dissenting sects. 

Of all the countries of Europe in 1492, apart from Portugal which 
preceded it, Spain was best fitted, physically and psychologically, for 
the initiation of overseas colonialism. The heirs of the rival Crowns 
of Castile and Aragon had brought peace to the country and developed 
the centralised monarchy, backed by the cities and the lawyers. The 
expulsion of Jews and Moors demonstrated the Church militant and 
triumphant. Undoubtedly secure, the Spanish monarchy was ready to 


receive Columbus when he arrived with his new theories and his 
discovery proposals. 

There was nothing strange in the approach by Columbus, an 
Italian from Genoa, to the Spanish Monarchy. The Genoese were no 
strangers in Spain. From the 12th century they were established in a 
quarter in Seville, whence they would be well placed to participate in 
Spain's subsequent trade to the West Indies. Convoys of Genoa, as 
well as of Venice, Florence and the Kingdom of Naples, called regu- 
larly at Spain on their way to England and Flanders. 

The Genoese, and the Italians generally, were equally well known 
in Portugal. They served as Admirals in the Portuguese navy, and 
they served also, like Columbus' father-in-law, in the Portuguese trade 
with the Canary Islands. Columbus himself approached, without suc- 
cess, the Portuguese Court, and the great Italian geographer, Paolo 
Toscanelli, was consulted by the king of Portugal on Columbus* pro- 
posals. These proposals were ultimately rejected by Portugal, either 
because it had no faith in Columbus, or because it had evidence - 
which Diaz was soon to confirm - that the true route to India was 
by way of Africa. 

Thus did Columbus turn to Spain and to the service of Spain. In 
those days adventure and geographical scholarship knew no national 
boundaries. The Cabots, Venetians, served England. Verezzano, 
Florentine, served France. Magellan, Portuguese, served Spain. 
Hudson, English, served, Holland. Columbus was ready to serve either 
England or France or Portugal or Spain. Spain accepted his pro- 
posals; the others temporised or studied them or rejected them. 

The sovereigns of Spain signed the discovery contract with Colum- 
bus in 1492 by which they agreed to finance the voyage in return for 
royal control of the lands discovered and a high proportion of the 
profits of the voyage. This contract opened the door to the introduc- 
tion of the medieval society into the West Indies, with its grants of 
titles and large tracts of land. Columbus was the mouthpiece of the 
medieval tradition, which was to be followed in the seventeenth cen- 
tury by French concessions inspired by the feudal system in France 
and by the wholesale grants of islands to favourites of the British 

The Spanish Monarchy, after the success of Columbus had been 
established, secured a religious title to the entire Western Hemisphere 
by the Papal Donation of 1493, ratified by the Treaty of Tordesillas 
between Spain and Portugal in 1494. This Treaty was a diplomatic 
triumph for Portugal. Spain, led astray by Columbus' delusions, 
agreed to rectify the Papal boundary in a way that confirmed to Por- 
tugal not only the true route to India but the whole of the South 
Atlantic with Brazil. 

It was against this background that Columbus set out on his third 
voyage on May 30, 1498 and sighted the island, which he christened 
Trinidad, at noon on Tuesday, July 31. He touched at a harbour 
which he called Point Galera and then sailed westward until he 


entered the Gulf of Paria through the entrance which he named the 
Serpent's Mouth. Searching for an exit from the Gulf of Paria in 
which he sailed north, south and west, he identified the narrowness of 
the strait separating Venezuela from Trinidad. After running the 
danger of the furious currents both north and south, he eventually 
managed to find an exit into the Caribbean Sea which he called the 
Dragon's Mouth. One can well understand today the difficulties en- 
countered by the sailing ships of Columbus' day in these tricky pas- 
sages when one reads, in a Dutch report on Trinidad as late as 1637, 
139 years after Columbus, that the Spaniards, before going through 
the Dragon's Mouth, promised a Mass to St Anthony so that he might 
guard them as they passed. 

On this same voyage Columbus is alleged to have sighted Tobago. 
What is certain is that he did not land in Tobago but proceeded from 
Trinidad to Hispaniola. Tobago remained therefore virtually isolated 
and undiscovered, an Amerindian island untouched for many decades 
by any Europeans, retaining its name, 'Tobaco' (whence the corrup- 
tion Tobago), signifying the importance of tobacco in the Amerindian 

The arrival of the Spaniards in Trinidad entailed the same clash 
of cultures that had been induced by their arrival in Hispaniola and 
the other islands of the Greater Antilles. The Spanish conquest 
of Trinidad represented the victory of armour over roucou paint, of 
the sword and lance over the bow and poisoned arrow, of horsemen 
over foot soldiers who had never seen a horse, of a society whose diet 
was wheat over a society whose diet was cassava. 

The inevitable conflict developed, in Trinidad as in Hispaniola 
before it, between the European desire for surplus production and 
the subsistence economy of the Amerindians, between the Spanish 
settlements copied from Spain and the Amerindian village, between 
the Spanish Viceroy or Governor representative of the royal auto- 
cracy and the paternal rule of the cacique, between imported Euro- 
pean diseases like smallpox and the tropical diseases like malaria 
and yellow fever, and between the mining economy based on the 
Spanish obsession for gold and the agricultural economy of the 

In this setting, in this clash of cultures, in this conflict between two 
different ways of life and two different philosophies of existence, the 
Spanish conquest of Trinidad, like the Spanish conquest six years 
before of Hispaniola, and like the Spanish conquest of Mexico and 
Peru in the 16th century, developed a tremendous irreconcilable con- 
tradiction between the greed for wealth and the conversion of the 
Amerindians, between the lust for gold and the salvation of souls. 
Trinidad was a part of that internal conflict in Spain itself which could 
not make up its mind whether the Spaniards should compel the 
Amerindians to work or should leave them free to be idle if they so 
chose; and the further conflict, if they were to compel the Amerin- 
dians to work without which there could be no gold or no production, 


how were they to organise this exploitation of Amerindian labour so 
that the Amerindians should not be decimated by a way of life and 
by physical exertions to which they were unaccustomed? 

These two practical economic questions gave rise to two philo- 
sophical conflicts which ran right through the period of Spanish 
colonialism: the first, what was the nature of the Amerindians? 
Were they men like other men, capable of living, as the Spaniards 
were very fond of saying, like rational human beings, or were they 
an inferior species? And the second, what was the nature of the 
Spanish title to the West Indies and to America? 

Spain's conquest of Trinidad formed a part of this economic and 
intellectual conflict in the Spanish Empire, and Spanish colonialism 
in Trinidad developed amidst the reverberations of that conflict as 
fought out in Spain and America by the four great protagonists. 

On the one side was the Roman Catholic theologian, Bartolome 
de las Casas, who openly and flatly stated that the Amerindians should 
be allowed to live in peace and that the purpose of the conquest was 
to convert them to Roman Catholicism. Las Casas was ably supported 
by the international jurist, Francisco de Vitoria, who attacked the 
question of Spain's title to the Indies. 

On the other side were the conquistadors, Francisco Pizarro, who 
openly and flatly stated that he had not gone to the Indies to preach 
the faith to the Amerindians, he had gone to take away their gold, 
and Hernan Cortes, who openly and flatly stated that he had gone to 
the Indies to get gold and not to till the soil like a peasant. The con- 
quistadors were ably supported by the international jurist, Gines de 
Sepulveda, who attacked the capacity of the Amerindians, denied 
that they were men like other men, and alleged that they were closer 
to the monkey than they were to man. 

This was the background, political, economic and intellectual, to 
Spanish colonialism in Trinidad. 


The Bankruptcy of Spanish 

Trinidad remained in Spanish hands from July 31, 1498, until it was 
surrendered by the Spanish Governor to a British naval expedition 
on February 18, 1797. During these three centuries Spain was able 
to develop what, more modern examples notwithstanding, has become 
a byword in the history of colonialism for its inefficiency and 

Spanish colonialism, in Trinidad and elsewhere, rested on certain 
well-established principles and well-defined practices. 

The first was that the colony existed for the benefit of the Spanish 
monarchy and for no other reason. The Spanish monarchy, engrossed 
in its battle for European hegemony, was interested in gold and silver 
and in very little else. 

The second foundation of Spanish colonialism was that the native 
population, the Amerindians, were to be compelled to work for their 
Spanish masters, preferably in mines. When the Amerindians were 
decimated by colonial exploitation, their place was taken by imported 
African slaves who had the same obligation to work as their Amerin- 
dian predecessors. 

The third principle of Spanish colonialism was, to borrow the 
explicit phrase developed subsequently by the French, the Exclusive. 
This meant that the colony could trade only with the metropolitan 
country. It could buy only from the metropolitan country and sell 
only to the metropolitan country, and all commercial relations with 
foreigners were rigorously prohibited. As refined by the Spaniards, 
this essential principle of European colonialism throughout the West 
Indies further required that this import and export trade with the 
colonies should be concentrated in a single port in Spain - Seville 
was the port selected - that it should be controlled by a special 
organisation known as the Casa de Contratacion or House of Trade 
in Seville, that only such ships as were authorised by the House of 
Trade should participate in colonial trade, and that the ships engaged 
in colonial trade should, whether on their outward or inward voyages, 
proceed in convoys, protected by Spanish galleons against pirates, 
buccaneers, and rival European countries. 

The fourth principle of Spanish colonialism was that the Governor 
ruled supreme, though he was assisted by a Council of local notables 
who, like the cities in Spain, had certain well-defined rights and 

And the fifth principle of Spanish colonialism was that it was closely 
associated with the Church, and that the Church, whether by direct 



spiritual methods or by its economic activity, shared in the responsi- 
bility for civilising the Amerindian or slave population. 

Spanish colonialism, with these principles, proved inadequate all 
over America for the work of developing the colonial areas. But few 
Spanish colonies suffered as much as Trinidad did from Spanish 

After the discovery by Columbus in 1498, Trinidad remained 
almost completely neglected by Spain until in 1530 a Governor was 
appointed from Puerto Rico by the name of Antonio Sedeno. Little 
was accomplished in the way of effective possession of Trinidad by 
Sedeno and thereafter the island lapsed into virtual oblivion until in 
1595 a new beneficiary of the Spanish crown arrived as Governor, 
Antonio de Berrio. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries Trinidad 
languished, a Spanish colony in name, a forgotten and under- 
developed island in fact. Governors came and went, but Trinidad 
continued to languish. 

A former British Colonial Governor once complained to an 
Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies in England of the 
rubbish sent out by Britain for departmental service in the Crown 
colonies. The Under-Secretary of State replied: *It is true that we* 
send out a great deal of rubbish, but it is mostly in the form of 

Trinidad suffered in this way not only from England but also from 
Spain. No real progress was made until the last fourteen years of 
Spanish rule and the regime of the last Spanish Governor, Don Jose 
Maria Chacon. 

Spain experienced two fundamental weaknesses in the implementa- 
tion of its plans for colonial expansion and of the basic principles 
underlying Spanish colonialism. The first was its inability to maintain 
the Exclusive. 

Spain lacked the production organisation in Spain either to satisfy 
colonial import needs or to handle colonial exports. It lacked the 
ships which had been prescribed as the sole carriers of colonial trade. 
It lacked the warships to give the prescribed protection to the mer- 
chant vessels engaged in colonial trade. Spanish shipping engaged in 
trade with the New World amounted to between 3,000 and 4,000 tons 
around 1500. By 1565 this had increased to 15,000 tons. Just before 
the Spanish Armada of 1588 was defeated by England, the tonnage 
amounted to between 25,000 and 30,000. At its peak in 1608, 
the Spanish shipping engaged in trade with the New World amounted 
to 45,000 tons. 

From 1564 two armed fleets were despatched from Spain annually, 
one to Mexico, the other to Panama. They reassembled at Havana 
in the following spring for the return voyage. Each fleet consisted 
of from 20 to 60 sail, with an escort of from two to six warships. The 
system was supported by cruiser squadrons based at Santo Domingo 
and Cartagena and protected by such defences as those at Havana. 
The protection thus afforded was reasonably effective, but the 


colonials paid a high price for it, in the delay in obtaining metropoli- 
tan supplies and in the consequent enhancement of prices. 

Spain's second weakness was its inability to provide the manpower 
needed for its vast colonial dominions which existed not only in the 
Caribbean but also in all of South America witH the exception of 
Brazil. It had no real surplus population for export, this small country 
of some eight million people at the end of the 16th century. In this 
respect Spain was no worse off than its neighbours. If France's popula- 
tion at the end of the 16th century was 16 million, England had only 
five million, the Netherlands less than three, Portugal one million 
only. Large scale emigration would have been rigorously opposed. 
In the European State of that time, soldiers (seamen in the case of 
islands) ranked next in importance only to bullion. 

Neither in fact nor in theory could the New World have been 
peopled from the Old, Actually, the influx of American treasure into 
Spain created a tremendous labour shortage and Spain could neither 
prevent immigration nor her neighbours prevent emigration. In Valen- 
cia in 1548 there were .10,000 Frenchmen; hostile Spaniards called 
them 'fleas living on Spain'. But Spain's population problem where 
her colonies was concerned was aggravated by her religious exclu- 
sivism. Spain rigorously prevented all non-Catholics and all heretics 
from participation in colonial development. 

Those Spaniards who did proceed to the Indies went, like Cortes 
and Pizarro, lured by gold and silver. Spain's overseas revenue 
increased from 35,000 ducats a year in 1516 to between two and three 
millions by 1588. The imports of treasure into Spain from the New 
World, in pesos equal to 42.29 grams of pure silver, were 371,055 in 
1503 and 34,428,500 - nearly one hundred times as much -in 1596. 

A whole society in miniature accompanied Columbus on his second 
voyage in 1493. The total of 1,200 persons included soldiers, artisans, 
farmers, priests. They took with them seeds, tools, animals. The object 
was not trade but conquest. The goal was a farming and mining 
colony in Hispaniola producing its own food, paying for the costs of 
transport by remitting gold, and serving as a base for further 

The dazzling grandeur of the conquests of Mexico and Peru, and 
the discovery of the silver mines of Potosi in what is today Bolivia, 
wrecked all this. What impressed was the rebuilding by Cortes of 
the ancient Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, which he renamed Mexico 
City; its population in 1520 was around 100,000, larger than that of 
Toledo or Seville or any Spanish city in Europe. Pizarro, in his turn, 
destroyed the ancient Inca capital of Cuzco and built an entirely new 
capital, Lima, the City of Kings. The land grants in Mexico and Peru 
corresponded to this viceregal splendour. Cortes arrogated to him- 
self, in Oaxaca Valley in Mexico, a land area comprising officially 
23,000 heads of households required to work his lands. 

This was what attracted the Spaniards who emigrated - the mag- 
nificence of the conquistadors, the wealth of Potosi, the chimera of 


El Dorado with its cities whose streets were paved with gold. A be- 
nighted, poverty-stricken island like Trinidad could never hope to 
compete with this. 

These two fundamental weaknesses made the Spanish Empire, on 
paper a formidable proposition and a grandiose achievement, in fact 
a vast conglomeration of poor, undeveloped and defenceless terri- 
tories open to any invader with adequate resources in ships and man- 
power. One early British imperialist, writing from Port-of-Spain in 
1611 to the Lord High Treasurer of England as he was engaged in 
the trade with Trinidad prohibited by Spanish laws, asserted that 
Spain's force was reputation and its safety opinion. Spain's empire 
was protected, in other words, by a reputation which was not justified 
and an opinion of Spanish strength in the colonies which was without 

Thus it was that, a mere century or so after Columbus' memorable 
voyage, a Spanish ambassador in London could say piteously to the 
British Government that *God has committed the Indies to the trust 
of the Spaniards that all nations might partake of the riches of that 
new world; it is even necessary that all Europe should contribute 
towards supplying that vast empire with their manufactures and their 

Spain came to depend on a trade system in which she bought her 
requirements, domestic and overseas, from the rest of Europe and 
paid for them in treasure from the New World. French vessels domi- 
nated the Seville -New World Market. Antwerp became the great 
beneficiary of Spanish trade. The Spaniards in Seville, with their 
monopoly of colonial trade, became nothing more than commission 
agents for Genoese, Jewish, Flemish and German business houses. 

The whole history of Trinidad under Spanish colonialism demon- 
strated Spain's inability to organise and develop the colony. 
Consider, for example, the operation of the Exclusive in practice. 
On January 1, 1593, Antonio de Berrio, in a letter to the Council 
of the Indies, requested that two ships of 200 tons each should be 
provided for Trinidad for a period of five years. The ships were not 

The people of Trinidad had to live -if not with Spain, then with- 
out Spain. If Spanish ships did not arrive with Spanish goods, then, 
law or no law, they would trade with foreign ships and send their 
exports elsewhere. Thus it was that the English adventurer referred 
to above was able to see in the harbour of Port-of-Spain in 1611 
fifteen ships, English, French, and Dutch, 'freighting smoke' as he 
put it, that is to say engaged in the tobacco trade. It is probable that 
these included the three English ships which, according to the Spanish 
Ambassador in London, arrived in London later in the year 1611 with 
Trinidad tobacco, the smallest of them bringing a cargo valued at 
half a million ducats. 

If Spanish colonialism was based on the exclusion of foreigners 
from colonial trade and the restriction of colonial trade to Spaniards 


and Spanish vessels, the obvious way to stop illegal foreign trade was 
to provide the essentials for the legal Spanish trade. The only remedy 
that the Spanish Ambassador in London could suggest, however, 
was that the Governor of Trinidad should be punished, in much the 
same way as a royal official in Trinidad had two years earlier advised 
the King of Spain that the f ountainhead and author of all the colonial 
transgressions against the Exclusive was the Governor of Trinidad 

It was not the poor Governor's fault. Everybody in Trinidad was 
a lawbreaker. It was not a question of smuggling. It was an open trade, 
conducted in broad daylight, in which all participated, men and 
women, young and old, adults and children. 

The Spanish Government had a system whereby an investigation 
was instituted into the conduct of a colonial Governor at the end 
of his term. This was called a residencia. One Sancho de Alquiza 
was designated to conduct a residenda in Trinidad in 1611. This is 
the report that he sent to one of the highest colonial courts in the West 
Indies, the Audiencia of Santo Domingo, on January 13, 1612 from 

'I have begun to conduct this residencia and find generally that 
everyone here is guilty without exception. 

*I have not taken action against anyone because they all freely 
confess their fault and ask for mercy in such a way that I could 
only pity them and considering what I have learnt in the past three 
days, I have pardoned these people . . . The petition was in the 
names of all the vecinos asking mercy for all who, from the highest 
to the lowest, admitted that they were guilty of trading with the 
enemy. As the petition was being read, all the women and vecinos 
fell on their knees in front of my house confessing their fault and 
asking forgiveness. 

This was very painful and I told them to rise from the ground 
and consoled them as best I could. I was alone in the Town and 
the people had done all that they could; to arrest all those guilty 
was not possible, I had neither the soldiers nor a prison large 

*I am reporting all this to His Majesty and asking that a general 
pardon be given to all in this place, otherwise all would have to be 
punished down to the children of ten years old.' 

The bankruptcy of the Exclusive was revealed in all its nakedness. 
It was universal guilt, guilt without exception. The very basis of Trini- 
dad colonial society was illegality, a complete violation of metropolitan 
law. The investigator was absolutely powerless. He had no troops, he 
had no jail. He would have had to arrest the whole population. Thus 
powerless, he could only recommend a general pardon. 

But the very recommendation of a general pardon meant that the 
illegal trade would continue, since no one in his senses believed that 
Spain could either produce goods in adequate quantity to render 


the illegal trade unnecessary or could provide the soldiers who would 
enforce the metropolitan legislation. It was a typical illustration of 
the well-known Spanish attitude in the colonies to metropolitan legisla- 
tion, expressed in the colonial proverb, 'Let it be obeyed but not 

As for actual remedies to the metropolitan problem, those suggested 
were absurd in the extreme. As far as the King himself was con- 
cerned, all he could propose was that the Armada proceeding to Cen- 
tral America to collect the royal silver should alter its course and 
proceed to Trinidad to capture, burn or sink the foreign vessels. He 
thought that a mere two days would be sufficient for this assignment, 
but warned in the strongest language that the safety of the galleons 
was not to be delayed. 

This was the fountainhead of Spanish colonialism, which passed 
a law and organised a system, but could not enforce the former or 
maintain the latter. Its incompetence and inefficiency led to univer- 
sal disregard of the law and the system. So the solution? Take a little 
time out and destroy the illegal ships. But what then would happen? 
Two foreign ships would replace every one that was burnt or sunk. 
And the needs of the population, which had given rise to the illegal 
trade, would continue to patronise the illegal trade once the galleons 
had departed. 

The Governor of Margarita off the coast of Venezuela, which was 
part of the entire Province that included Trinidad and Guiana, there- 
fore proposed another solution which was, if possible, even more 
absurd than the solution proposed by the King. Noting that after the 
visit of the galleons, ten or eleven English and Dutch ships had visited 
Trinidad, he recommended that the King should prohibit the 
cultivation of tobacco in Trinidad so that the enemy traders would 
obtain nothing there, give up the trade, and cease visiting Trinidad. 
Tobacco was at the time the basis of Trinidad's economy. If ships 
could not be authorised to go to Trinidad to take its tobacco exports, 
and if foreign vessels insisted on going to Trinidad to take its tobacco 
exports, and if foreign vessels insisted on going to Trinidad to buy 
the tobacco and take it to foreign countries, then the Governor's 
solution was to destroy the economy of the island in order to main- 
tain an ineffective metropolitan system which the metropolitan country 
could not implement* 

Yet a third absurdity was propounded. A royal official in 1613, in 
pleading once more with the House of Trade in Seville to send 
annually to Trinidad two ships of about 200 tons, to bring to Trini- 
dad food and other necessaries and to take in return Trinidad produce, 
perhaps realising that he was beating his head against a wall of 
metropolitan indifference and incompetence, had this more to offer: 

'The only remedy is to make the Spaniards afraid to trade with 
the enemy and of dealing with them in the produce of these lands. 
Any who would thus trade should not be allowed into this island 


which has cost our people so much blood and which is so much 
wanted by the enemies of our faith.* 

And so the dismal story goes on, the story of the colonial struggle 
for survival in the face of metropolitan ineptitude. Take, for example, 
the year 1653. The people of Trinidad made representations to the 
monarchy that it was twenty years since an authorised Spanish vessel 
had been sent to Trinidad. They claimed that they were in great want 
of clothing and other necessities and that their crops were worthless 
as they had no market for them. They petitioned the King therefore 
to grant them in perpetuity one authorised ship a year. If eternity 
was too long, they were ready to compromise on one authorised ship 
a year for ten years. The Council of the Indies advised the King that 
he should send to Trinidad one authorised ship a year for four years. 
What was to happen after the four years? Absolute silence. 

But even one authorised ship a year for four years was beyond 
the capacity of the Spanish Government. Nine years later, in 1662, 
when the Governor of the Province attempted to enforce the Exclu- 
sive in Trinidad to forbid trade with a Dutch ship in the harbour of 
Port-of -Spain, the Spanish settlers decided that they would welcome 
the ship and sent an emissary as their spokesman before the Spanish 
authorities in Trinidad. The spokesman urged that the order enforcing 
the restriction of trade with the Dutch ship should be set aside on 
account of the great poverty of the people of the island. He asserted 
that it was more than thirty years since a ship from Spain had arrived 
in Trinidad, so that the Spaniards lacked not only clothes but knives, 
hatchets, cutlasses and other tools for cultivation. The spokesman 
threatened that if the wishes of the inhabitants were not acceded to, 
they requested permission to leave Trinidad and serve His Majesty 
in some other part of his dominions. 

Thus the bankruptcy of the Exclusive was made complete and the 
wheel came full circle. Trade only with Spain and not with foreign 
countries. But Spain cannot really serve us. Then sink the foreign 
vessels, destroy the tobacco, banish the lawbreakers. Then permit us 
to emigrate. It was the Exclusive with a vengeance. There were only 
two alternatives: on the metropolitan side, the Exclusive or banish- 
ment; on the colonial side, no Exclusive or emigration. 

It was not only that Spain was incapable of developing Trinidad 
economically. What aggravated the situation was that Spain was 
incapable of defending the colony. Defence involved both a local 
militia, a national guard in the territory composed of settlers, and 
the military, Spanish troops from Spain. Spain was unable to provide 
military reinforcements, whether soldiers or ships or to supply the 
necessary white population on which the national guard would have 
been based. Thus the history of Trinidad under Spanish colonialism 
is a dismal record of reports on its defenceless state, piteous pleas 
for help, and inability to defend itself either from local enemies, or 
from Carib invaders, or from rival foreign powers. 


The most hysterical of all the pleas for help and the most 
exasperated of all the analyses of Trinidad's defenceless state came 
from the Governor, Antonio de Berrio, in a letter to the King 
of Spain on November 24, 1593. The Carib menace was uppermost in 
his mind. De Berrio had, he said, only 70 men against 6,000 hostile 
Amerindians. Order Puerto Rico to send 100 of the 400 idle paid 
soldiers of the King in Puerto Rico to patrol the coast. Order Puerto 
Rico also to supply 20 quintals of powder, an equal weight of lead, 
6 culverins and 50 muskets. 

The metropolitan country failed the colony militarily as it failed 
it economically. A piteous plea to the King of Spain was made by 
the Cabildo of Trinidad, the assembly representative of the Spaniards 
presided over by the Governor with little real power, on September 
30, 1625. The Cabildo emphasised the general poverty of the place, 
illustrating it by the thatched building which served as Church 
because there were no funds to erect a proper structure, and 
emphasising it by the Cabildo's need to beg for a supply of oil in 
order to light the building for Church services. According to the 
Cabildo, there were only 24 Spanish settlers in the whole island, with- 
out arms or ammunition, 'completely defenceless against their many 

If on the economic problem the King's solution was to reduce it 
to absurdity by ordering the destruction of the foreign vessels, on 
the defence problem he literally exploded with rage. In 1638 the House 
of Trade emphasised the defenceless state of Trinidad and the impos- 
sibility of putting up any resistance to enemy attack. The House of 
Trade stressed that Trinidad's inability to resist was the result of the 
metropolitan failure to assist over the years with arms, supplies, cloth- 
ing, and authorised ships. This was too much for the King who, as 
the ruler of vast European dominions and a huge transatlantic empire, 
saw Trinidad in its international context. The royal indignation was 
expressed in a memorandum to the House of Trade on their 
representations : 

'You make reproaches about the money I have used as though 
I had taken yours or some private person's without compensation, 
or as if I had ordered it to be taken for the purpose of mak- 
ing presents to certain people, or as though, if I had not taken it, 
a great portion of the State of Milan and of Flanders with the whole 
of Burgundy would not now have been lost; so you may see with 
what slight reason you advise repeatedly on this matter. 

'If the trade would voluntarily pay one per cent, or two, or had 
been made to pay for the public cause on any of the many occa- 
sions on which I have so ordered, there would have been a totally 
different result, and what has happened and is feared would never 
have occurred, nor would so tardy a remedy as a visit by the ships 
of the Brazil route be proposed, for they can only be a very small 
fleet and cannot arrive for four months, nor can they alone effect 


anything of importance against those who may have taken posses- 
sion over there. 

'What might be done is to send direct at once to the Island of 
Trinidad, in tenders and caravels or light vessels, 200 men with 
munitions and clothing and some provisions for the people there 
and a couple of good soldiers as leaders to ensure success, and when 
this assistance has been despatched, as I have resolved, this matter 
can be discussed to some purpose and on a firm basis/ 

The King proposed but the Spanish economy disposed. Spain 
simply could not provide the men. Thus it was that the Governor of 
Trinidad, writing to the Secretary of the Council of the Indies 
in 1671, could state that he had only 80 settlers and 80 'domesticated* 
Amerindians insufficient for the defence of the island. He therefore 
urged that a garrison of 50 men should be sent to Trinidad. Nothing 
was done. Therefore the Cabildo in 1700, warning the King of 
mortality among the settlers in the national guard, as a result of which 
families were left without support, urged that 25 soldiers should be 
transferred to Trinidad from the garrison in Guiana. 

Nothing came of this. Nothing. On January 18, 1776, the Governor 
of Trinidad reported simply of Trinidad and Margarita: There is 
nothing of importance about these islands to record.' 

Spain's Exclusive policy was bankrupt. Spain's defence policy was 
bankrupt. Spanish colonialism on its death bed had ended in nothing. 

It was therefore totally impossible for Spanish Trinidad to defend 
itself from either Caribs, pirates or buccaneers. Sir Walter Raleigh was 
able to land with impunity in Trinidad in 1595, to travel up and down 
the island, to arrest the Spanish Governor, to burn the capital St 
Joseph, and openly to challenge Spanish authority in a speech which, 
through an interpreter, he made to the Amerindians, as follows : 

'I made them understand that I was a servant of a Queen, who 
was the Great Cacique of the North, and a virgin, and had more 
Caciques under her than there were trees in their Island, and that 
she was an enemy to the Castillians in respect of their tyranny and 
oppression, and that she delivered all such nations about her, as 
were by them oppressed, and having freed all the coast of the 
northern world from their servitude had sent me to free them also, 
and withal to defend the country of Guiana from their invasion 
and conquest.' 

Two years later a fleet of pirogues sailing from Trinidad to Guiana 
with stores and men was attacked by a Carib fleet from Dominica 
and Grenada and totally destroyed. In 1637 the Dutch attacked St 
Joseph so suddenly and unexpectedly that the women in the town 
hardly had time to leave their houses and escape into the forest. The 
Dutch burnt the town including the Church and nothing escaped. 
They then left the island with plans to return. 

Eighty years later the Dutch had yielded to the French, and the 
Governor of Barbados, writing to the Commissioners of Trade and 


Plantations, stated that the French behaved in the West Indies like 
Lords Paramount and treated the Spaniards as they pleased. 

The English contempt for Spain and Spain's title to Trinidad was 
illustrated by the grant which Charles I made on February 25, 1628, 
to the Earl of Montgomery of Trinidad, Tobago, Barbados and other 

Spain's European rivals simply refused to recognise or admit 
Spain's claims to a monopoly of the New World and the West Indies. 
King Francis I of France gave voice to the general view when he 
said he would like to see the clause in Adam's will which excluded 
him from a share of the world, and he sent Verezzano, the Floren- 
tine in his service, to make discoveries with the instruction: 'God 
had not created these lands for Spaniards only.' The British Govern- 
ment refused to abide by the Papal Donation. Sir William Cecil 
asserted to the Spanish Ambassador in London in 1562: The Pope 
had no right to partition the world and to give and take kingdoms 
to whomsoever he pleased.' 

The French and British countered the Spanish monopoly with the 
doctrine of effective occupation. France, challenging Spain's inter- 
pretation of international law, stated boldly: 

'In lands which the King of Spain did not possess they ought 
not to be disturbed, nor in their navigation of the seas, nor would 
they consent to be deprived of the sea or the sky.* 

The British view on effective occupation and on freedom of the 
seas was even more specific. Queen Elizabeth I expounded it to the 
Spanish Ambassador in London as follows: 

'Her Majesty does not understand why her subjects and those 
of other Princes are prohibited from the Indies, which she could 
not persuade herself are the rightful property of Spain by dona- 
tion of the Pope of Rome, in which she acknowledged no preroga- 
tive in matters of this kind, much less authority to bind Princes 
who owe him no obedience, or to make that new world as it were 
a fief for the Spaniard and clothe him with possession: and that 
only on the ground that Spaniards have touched here and there, 
have erected shelters, have given names to a river or promontory; 
acts which cannot confer property. So that this donation of alien 
property (which by essence of law is void), and this imaginary 
proprietorship, ought not to hinder other princes from carrying 
on commerce in these regions, and from establishing Colonies 
where Spaniards are not residing, without the least violation of the 
law of nations, nations, since prescription without possession is of 
no avail; nor yet from freely navigating that vast ocean, since the 
use of the sea and the air is common to all men; further that no 
right to the ocean can inure to any people or individual since 
neither nature or any principle of public user admits occupancy of 
the ocean.' 


While the Governments did not feel free to take positive action 
against Spain, they did nothing to restrain their subjects from doing 
so. The sixteenth century in particular was the great age of the 
buccaneers, the foreign captains who waylaid the Spanish treasure 
fleets, who sacked and plundered the Spanish cities in the New World, 
who violated the Spanish Exclusive by force of arms. Fleury inter- 
cepted the first treasure sent by Cortes from Mexico. Sir Francis 
Drake plundered Nombre de Dios, the treasure house of the New 
World. Sir John Hawkins forced the Spaniards in Hispaniola to trade 
with him. So persistent were the Dutch free traders that the Spanish 
Governor of Venezuela recommended that they should be kept out 
of the Spanish colonies by poisoning the salt pans to which they were 
in the habit of resorting. 

There was, as the saying went in Europe at the time, no peace below 
the line. This doctrine was written into the Treaty of Cateau- 
Combresis in 1559. 

'West of the prime meridian and south of the Tropic of Can- 
cer ... violence done by either party to the other side shall not 
be regarded as in contravention of the treaties.' 

Thus did Trinidad and the West Indies live under Spanish 
colonialism - disregard and violation of metropolitan law in Trini- 
dad itself, disregard and violation of international law in West Indian 
waters. Spanish colonialism was cradled in illegality, violence and 

No Spanish ships for trade, no Spanish soldiers for defence. And 
there were no Spanish settlers for economic development. Spain was 
simply unable to provide the manpower. The early attempts of 
Columbus in Hispaniola to attract small white settlers, either by 
liberal grants of land or other concessions or by metropolitan remis- 
sion of penalties for various crimes, had been a failure. 

Two decades later Las Casas failed in his attempt to set up a colony 
of white Spanish fanners in Venezuela. Privileges and liberties were 
granted to Spanish farmers to go to the Indies to develop the land, 
thus providing the opportunity for improvement to those who lived 
in poverty in Spain, and for occupation of the discovered territories 
in order to prevent foreign invasion. The inducements offered by the 
King were free passage to the New World, free medical care and 
medicines, free land and animals, exemption from taxes for twenty 
years except the tithe for the Church, assistance in the building of their 
new homes, and prizes to farmers who produced the first dozen 
pounds of silk, cloves, ginger, cinnamon or other spices, and the first 
hundredweight of rice or of olive oil. Las Casas went up and down 
Spain making speeches, seeking to recruit workers for America. He 
failed dismally, running into the hostility of the feudal lords who 
wanted to preserve their own labour supply, and he dropped the pro- 
ject quietly in April 1519. 
It was therefore never likely that there would be any large-scale 


migration of Spaniards to Trinidad. But Spain's basic inability to 
provide manpower, or ships, or soldiers was unnecessarily aggravated 
by its exclusive policy in respect of population. In 1630, for example, 
the King protested to the Governor of Trinidad against the conces- 
sions granted to certain Portuguese who had arrived in Trinidad with- 
out his permission, who had been allowed to settle there, and who 
had been granted land and Amerindian workers to cultivate the land. 
The King ordered that these Portuguese should be required to leave or 
be ejected by force, and instructed the Governor to grant in future 
no lands to Portuguese without his expressed permission. If ever a 
colonial system was mad, the Spanish colonial system was mad. 

Spain was interested not in Trinidad but in gold. If Trinidad had 
gold, then Spain would show an interest in Trinidad. Gold was 
a positive obsession with King Ferdinand who had signed the con- 
tract with Columbus, and on February 23, 1512, he wrote to the 
authorities in Puerto Rico, under which jurisdiction Trinidad then 
fell, as follows: 

*It is of importance to me to know definitely whether or not there 
is gold in Trinidad as you were told by the five Indians who came 
to your ship when you anchored there; you should proceed to find 
out all you can about this and determine the truth of this statement.' 

There was really no gold in Trinidad, notwithstanding early reports 
that gold had been found in some of the rivers. There being no gold, 
Spain was not impressed, and Spaniards were not interested. Trini- 
dad's importance, and lack of importance, therefore revolved around 
El Dorado, the rumour of gold in Guiana. It proved as impossible 
to keep Spaniards in Trinidad with the lure of El Dorado as it had 
proved to keep them in Hispaniola because of the gold and silver of 
Mexico and Peru. As early as 1530, the Governor of Puerto Rico 
had reported that the prayer on the lips of every Spaniard on that 
island was 'May God take me to Peru'. 

Similarly, de Berrio's principal interest in his settlement in Trini- 
dad in 1592 was that it would be a base from which to enter 
and settle El Dorado. Writing to the Council of the Indies on 
January 1, 1593, he stated that *if God aids me to settle Guiana, Trini- 
dad will be the richest trade centre of the Indies', for if Guiana was 
one-twentieth of what it was supposed to be, it would be richer than 

This is the explanation of the metropolitan failure to send ships, 
the metropolitan failure to send soldiers, the unwillingness of 
Spaniards to settle in Trinidad. The Spanish conquest of Trinidad 
was a conquest in name only, and the prospects of the island under 
Spanish colonialism, never bright as we have indicated, were ruined 
by the lust for gold in El Dorado. This is what the Governor of Sante 
Fe wrote to the King of Spain about Trinidad on January 20, 1608 : 

'We have heard how weak is the foundation of that conquest 
which is only sustained by vanity and with vanity. 


'Let His Majesty be pleased to consider that though it is not 
carried on (and even because it is not carried on) at the expense 
of the Royal Treasury, it touches your most Christian conscience 
nearer, for the price of pursuing the chimera of this discovery 
is the free and licentious lives led by the soldiers who without 
spiritual and temporal leading run headlong into every kind of 

'From that place which is the chosen resort of secular criminals, 
irregular priests and apostate friars and in general a seminary of 
rascals, nothing is to be expected except some seditious scandal 
when they despair of finding what they seek or tire of the delay in 
its discovery,' 

Trinidad, such as it was, underpopulated, defenceless, victim of 
metropolitan indifference, turned to tobacco and the tobacco trade 
with foreigners. By 1718, however, the first real indication of Trini- 
dad's future place in the world economy emerged. Cocoa trees were 
found in Trinidad, and thereafter the cocoa economy developed 
slowly until collapse came in 1733. One of the clergymen in Trinidad 
blamed the collapse on the refusal of the Spanish planters to pay the 
tithes to the Church. The Abbe Raynal, the well-known French 
authority on the West Indies, writing many years after the event, 
attributed the failure of the cocoa crop to the north winds. More 
plausible reasons have been advanced for the collapse. One, the 
severe drought in that year; two, that the cocoa variety then planted, 
whilst of the highest quality, was far more tender and less hardy than 
the forastero variety from Brazil generally cultivated after 1756. 
Whatever the cause, the effects of the failure of the cocoa crop were 
ruinous to Trinidad. Many of its inhabitants emigrated, and the King 
was forced to remit for several years the annual tribute exacted from 
the Amerindian workers. 

The Amerindians constituted the labour supply of the Spaniards. 
This was in accordance with the Spanish policy in conquered terri- 
tories in assigning a stipulated number of Amerindians to each 
Spaniard for the double purpose of providing labour for the Spaniards 
and of being instructed in the principles and the teachings of 
the Roman Catholic faith. In other parts of the West Indies and South 
America the secular purpose had superseded the religious, and it was 
this that formed the foundation of the unrelenting struggle of Las 
Casas for some sixty years for justice for the Amerindians and for 
taking them out of the care of secular landlords and putting them 
under the jurisdiction of the Church. Las Casas had been able, by 
the promulgation of the New Laws in 1542, to secure recognition of 
the principle that the Amerindians were a free people, were not to 
be enslaved, were to be paid prescribed wages, and were not to be 
compelled to work beyond prescribed hours. One result of this was a 
growing conflict between landlords and Church which spread to Trim*- 
dad, where it was claimed that the Church had too much economic 


influence and that, by the labour of Amerindians on Church estates, 
the Church was in competition with the secular planters. 

In Trinidad, however, Spanish colonialism began with the enslave- 
ment, direct or indirect, openly avowed or casuistically concealed, 
of the Amerindians and even of a slave trade in Amerindians. From 
both ends of the archipelago, from the Bahamas in the northwest 
and Trinidad in the southeast, the policy developed of transporting 
what the Spaniards called useless Amerindians to the mines of His- 
paniola. Las Casas has recorded that this slave trade reached such 
alarming proportions that it was possible for a ship to sail from the 
Bahamas to Hispaniola being guided solely by the trail of dead 
Amerindians thrown overboard. 

It was against this background that the King of Spain, on June 
15, 1510, in a letter to Columbus* son and successor Don Diego 
Columbus, placed a ban on the Amerindian slave trade from Trinidad. 
The ban was neither humanitarian in its motives nor permanent in 
its intention. The King was of the opinion that Spanish interests would 
be better served at that time by the ban as there were other islands 
much nearer Hispaniola from which Amerindian slaves could be 
carried, whilst he was also interested in preserving the Amerindian 
population in the islands and along the coast of the mainland where 
the pearl fishery seemed to be promising. He was also concerned, 
in a letter about a year later, with the possibility that there was gold 
in Trinidad, because, if so, it would be better to utilise the Amerin- 
dians in their native locality than to transport them to another place. 

Thus there was no real prohibition of the enslavement of the 
Amerindians in Trinidad. Sedeno in 1535 planned, as part of his 
development of the fishing industry in Trinidad, to capture some 
Amerindians in Trinidad and send them to Cubagua to be sold as 
slaves, fishing nets being bought with the proceeds. The royal offi- 
cials at Cubagua, however, refused to authorise such transactions. 
And the King himself, in 1511, specifically permitted both the slave 
trade and slavery in respect of Caribs, on the ground that the Caribs 
refused to allow Christians to enter the islands they inhabited and 
in the process of resistance had killed several Christians. He there- 
fore specifically authorised war against the Caribs of Trinidad, 
Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent, Tobago, Barbados and 
other islands, and their enslavement and transport to any other place 
on the one condition that they were not sold outside of the West 
Indies. This was an open invitation to any and everybody to capture 
Amerindians, all and sundry, and merely plead afterwards that they 
were Caribs. 

In the course of his long career as protector of the Amerindians, 
Las Casas fought many legal battles, engaged in many polemics and 
much disputation, wrote innumerable books and travelled up and 
down the West Indies and the north coast of South America and Cen- 
tral America. One of his greatest polemical achievements, which laid 
the basis of either his fame (to some) or his infamy (to others) in the 


outside world depending on the point of view, was his Very Brief 
Narrative of the Destruction of the Indies, published in 1559. It was 
at one and the same time an impassioned defence of the Amerindians 
and a tremendous indictment of his Spanish contemporaries. This 
world-famous document includes a section dealing with the Spanish 
attitude to the treatment of the Amerindians in Trinidad, which is 
reproduced here as indicating one redeemable feature in the history 
of the inefficiency and ineptitude of Spanish colonialism: 

'In the island of Trinidad which is much larger than that 
of Sicily and more beautiful and which is linked to the mainland 
by the Province of Paria, the Indians are as good and kind as any 
to be found in all the Indies. 

'A marauder went there in the year 1516 with some 60 or 70 
other villains who represented to the Indians that they had come 
to settle there and live in the Island with them. The Indians received 
them as if they were their friends and relatives showing every mark 
of respect and affection, supplying them every day with food, the 
best that could be got. It is the generous custom of all the Indians 
in the New World to give liberally to meet the needs of the 
Spaniards from whatever they may have. 

These men began to make a large house of wood in which they 
could all live as this was what they had alleged they had come to 
do. When the time came to apply palm leaves to the supports and 
some way up the walls had been covered so that those without could 
not see within, the Spaniards said that they wanted to finish the 
house quickly and so put many Indians inside to help while the 
Spaniards went outside and drew their swords to prevent any 
Indians leaving. Then they began to threaten the defenceless 
Indians with death should they attempt to escape. They bound the 
Indians as prisoners while some, forcing their way out, were cut to 
pieces by the Spaniards. 

*Some who had managed to escape though wounded, and others 
from the pueblo who had not entered the house, seized their bows 
and arrows and retired to another building in the pueblo to defend 
themselves. When one or two hundred of the Indians were inside 
holding the gate, the Spaniards set fire to the house and burnt them 
all alive. With the prisoners who amounted to about 180-200 men 
whom they had been able to catch, they returned to their ship and 
set sail for the Island of San Juan (Puerto Rico) where they sold 
half of them for slaves; thence they went to Hispaniola where they 
sold the remaining half of the Indians. 

'Having reprimanded the Captain for this dastardly treachery 
and evil attack when I met him at this time in the said Island of 
San Juan, he replied: "I did, Sir, what I was ordered; those who 
sent me instructed me to take them how I could either by war 
or in peace." He also told me that in all his life he had never found 
Indians so kind and ready with assistance as those in the Island 


of Trinidad. I repeat this to emphasise the importance of his con- 
fession and to show how great was his sin. 

'Such things have often been done on the mainland repeatedly, 
the Indians being taken and enslaved without restriction. Should 
such things be allowed to continue and should Indians taken in this 
way be sold as slaves?' 

The best commentary on the strictures of Las Casas is provided 
by the story of the Amerindian uprising in Trinidad nearly a century 
and a half later. Trinidad, it is true, had no such outstanding 
Amerindian rebel chieftain as Hatuey in Cuba, who went philoso- 
phically to the stake refusing to become a Christian because, if he 
went to Heaven, he might find Spaniards there. Trinidad had no such 
nationalist leader as Enrique who kept Spanish Hispaniola in a state 
of permanent revolution, and whose exploits have been transmitted 
to posterity by the Dominican historical novel, Enriquillo, by Manuel 
de J. Galvan. There was no ancient established dynasty in Trinidad 
to serve as the focus of a nationalist revolt against the conquerors 
which would have caused the Spaniards to decapitate it as the Viceroy 
Toledo deliberately decided in respect of the execution of the last 
recognised Inca prince of Peru, Tupac Amaru. 

On December 1, 1699, the Amerindians concentrated in one of 
several Missions that Spanish priests had set up over the island, the 
Mission of San Francisco de los Arenales, rose in revolt against 
Church and State. This is what is known as the Arena Massacre in 
Trinidad. They killed Capuchin Friars in charge of the Mission where 
they were building a new Church, one of them at the altar it- 
self, desecrated the statues and the ornaments of the Church, and 
burnt the entire Mission to the ground. They then proceeded to set 
an ambush for the Governor and his retinue who were at the time 
expected. on an official visit to the Mission. All but one of the Gover- 
nor's party died in the ambush, and he himself died from arrow 
wounds three days later. The Amerindian rebels buried the bodies 
of the priests hurriedly, threw the Governor's body into the river, 
and immediately headed for the sea coast in anticipation of retalia- 
tion. The Spaniards caught up with them in the Cocal, whence they 
drove them to Point Galera. Surrounded by water and by their 
enemies on land, caught as it were between the devil and the deep 
blue sea, many of them preferred to die rather than to submit to cap- 
ture. Women pulled their children from their breasts, threw them 
and their older children into the sea, and then themselves followed 
with many of the menfolk. 

Several were taken prisoner and brought to St Joseph where they 
were tortured. Many ringleaders were hanged and 61 others shot. 
Here is the sentence imposed by one of the tribunals: 

'That these twenty-two above indicated criminals and all the 
others of the said mission who might be caught be dragged along 
the public streets of this town, with a crier before them, publishing 


their crimes, and after that be hung, until they necessarily die, and 
after their hands and heads shall be cut off and exposed and nailed 
in the places where they committed and executed their crime, and 
their bodies shall be cut in pieces and put along the roads for their 
punishment, and good example for the public vengeance, because 
so orders the King our Lord by his royal laws.' 

It was not until April 15, 1701, with the appointment of a new 
Governor, that the Spaniards set out to recover the bodies of the 
murdered priests. On that day the Governor, the clergy, and many 
of the principal inhabitants met at San Francisco de los Arenales 
carrying coffins with them. The story of this episode is quoted from 
the account written by the official historian of the Capuchins, Fr. 
Mateo de Anguiano, in 1704: 

They arrived at the place and found it all deserted and waste. 
They went all over the ground finding signs of all that had 
happened and with the assistance of witnesses established the sites 
where each had been killed. They found with surprise and astonish- 
ment that the blood shed had remained fresh and red after so long 
a time just as if it had recently been shed. 

This was a wonderful occurrence but they found an even greater 
when they arrived at the foundations of the Church. They had ex- 
pected to find only the bones but they found the whole bodies with- 
out a single sign of corruption or any odour, as though they had 
just been killed. More miraculous still when they began to move 
the bodies, fresh blood began to ooze from all the wounds. 
Astonished at these marvels, they all gave thanks to God, placed 
the bodies in the coffins and with joy and satisfaction returned to 
the town. 

The bodies were taken to the principal Church and for nine days 
remained lying there in state where they provided to the Christian 
Piety of the faithful of this Island an exceptional opportunity of 
praising God. During this Novena various addresses on their virtues 
and martyrdom were delivered in which the fervour of the orators 
moved their hearers to tears now of joy and now of compassion. 
During all this time there was no change of any kind in the bodies 
which retained all their freshness as before.' 

There is an interesting sequel to the Massacre. In 1885 a Domini- 
can Missionary, Fr. Cothonay, claimed to have discovered, some- 
where in the neighbourhood of Tamana, the site on which had stood 
the Mission of San Francisco de los Arenales. After a long journey 
through the forest leading out of Tumpuna with their giant hard- 
wood trees and what he described as their incomparable fields of 
green with festoons of blossoming vines (which) linked them one to 
another', he was brought to a site where, he claimed, 'bits of bottles 
and broken glass afforded living witnesses of civilisation in the heart 
of so great a forest . . . sufficient proof that I was indeed on the spot 


hallowed by the blood of martyrs'. Fr. Cothonay took away a few 
pieces of the perfumed resin from the aromatic trees which surrounded 
the place to keep them as relics and as substitutes for the bones of 
the martyrs, while on the site of the old Church pointed out by the 
Amerindian guide, he gathered three species of orchids which he 
planted near his cell in Port-of -Spain in memory of the massacre of 
San Francisco de los Arenales. Fr. Cothonay claimed that the final 
proof that he had indeed found the site of the massacre was the 
various reports of traditions among the Amerindians that each year 
on Holy Thursday and Good Friday remarkable things happened 
in the deserted spot and that more than one person claimed to have 
heard voices talking and singing including the accents of a priest say- 
ing Mass and the murmur of people praying aloud. 

One result of the Arena Massacre was the Royal Decree sent to 
the governor of Trinidad in 1716 regarding the treatment of the 
Amerindians. Emphasising an earlier decision to take away all 
Amerindian workers from the settlers and concentrate them in his 
Royal estate in the interests of their spiritual welfare, the King com- 
manded that any settler who ill-treated his Amerindian workers, who 
had in any way tolerated or committed excessive wrongs against these 
workers, should be deprived of them. Any Amerindian who was con- 
verted to Roman Catholicism should be exempted from paying tribute 
of any kind for twenty years from the day he was baptised, and under 
no circumstances was he to be required to labour on estates if he did 
not wish to do so. 

What then? No ships, no soldiers, no tobacco, no white settlers - 
no labour as well? Faced with a similar situation the Royal officials 
and planters and clergy in Hispaniola and other West Indian islands 
called for the substitution of African slaves for Amerindian labour. 
Even Las Casas himself fell for the trap, though, unlike the others, 
he later repented openly and acknowledged his error. 

The first signs of a similar policy in Trinidad came with the report 
from de Berrio to the Council of the Indies on January 15, 1593. Re- 
minding the Council that he had a licence to introduce 500 African 
slaves into Trinidad free from all duties, he indicated his desire to 
associate with a trader who was not a buccaneer to bring in for barter 
hatchets, billhooks, knives, amber and glass beads, needles, cloaks, 
mirrors large and small - precisely the type of cargo which dominated 
the African slave trade in later years and which came to be lumped 
together under the general French term pacotille, a word still used 
in Trinidad to denote baubles and objects of no value surrendered 
in exchange for something very valuable. 

In 1618, with the first report of the discovery of cocoa, the warn- 
ing note was sounded that Trinidad would go the way of other West 
Indian islands. It was suggested that in order to develop the cocoa 
industry, 300 'pieces of slaves' should be sent to Trinidad, of whom 
two-thirds should be men and one-third women. 

This until 1777, was Trinidad under Spanish colonialism - poor, 


undeveloped, a showpiece of metropolitan incompetence and in- 
difference. The Spanish capital, St Joseph, was the symbol of this 
neglect and apathy. It boasted in 1772 of a population of 326 
Spaniards and 417 Amerindians. Its houses were mud huts with 
thatched roofs. Its Governor, part of the metropolitan rubbish ex- 
ported to the colonies, was thus described in 1609, possibly by an 

'He acts without any idea of Christianity or consideration that 
he is a servant of our Majesty but as an absolute King and Lord 
of that country. Neither the law of God nor the law of man 
is regarded in that country, but only that of his own will and 
pleasure, which he does not exercise in anything which tends to 
Christian virtue, just like an infidel and a savage.' 

The Governor was associated in the government of the island with 
a Cabildo which had no real powers. The Spanish Government in 
Trinidad, including Governor and Cabildo, and with the metropolitan 
country in the background, is immortalised in the following extract 
from the Archives of the Cabildo for April 28, 1757 : 

'Read a letter from His Excellency the Governor, directing the 
Board to proceed immediately to arrange and put in proper order 
the papers of the Cabildo which are in a very confused state; to 
take an inventory of the same and to order a press to be made with 
two keys to keep the papers in safety; to buy a decent book, 
properly bound, to enter the Minutes of the Board; to proceed 
without delay to build a Town Hall which had been begun and 
abandoned; to cause the vacant lots and streets of St Joseph to be 
cleared of the bush which covers them and to have the holes and 
ditches in the streets filled up; to give proper orders to have the 
roads and principally the avenues of the town cleared of woods and 
thickets; to regulate the pieces of articles of provisions which are 
produced in the Island by making a proper tariff . . . etc. 

'The Cabildo in their reply to the Governor represented the 
impossibility of carrying these orders into execution considering 
the very small number of inhabitants and their extreme poverty; 
the total want of money; the want of cattle and of all sorts 
of provisions; that the inhabitants feed themselves and their families 
with what little they can get personally in the woods and the sea 
and that many days they return to their homes without anything 
to eat which has induced many to leave the Island; that their occu- 
pation of weeding their little plantations takes up all their time; 
that they are constantly employed in mounting guard at the mouth 
of the Caroni (there being ten soldiers in the Island) and doing other 
public services to the detriment and often to the total loss of their 
gardens; that if forced to perform other works they would leave 
the Island and that if all the inhabitants together were put to work 
at repairing the holes and ditches of the town they could not finish 


the work in one year; and lastly that they have no tools nor are 
there any to be had in the Island, and that even if there were, they 
have not the means to purchase them. 

'Notwithstanding all these obstacles, orders will be given to oblige 
Pedro Bontur, the only carpenter in the island, to make the press 
for the Archives and to receive payment in provisions as they can 
be collected from the inhabitants on whom a contribution will be 
laid to that effect; but His Excellency the Governor must provide 
the boards (the Cabildo knowing no one in the Island who has them 
or can make them) and procure from the Main when an opportunity 
offers, the locks and hinges for the same, nothing of the kind being 
to be found here; that orders will be given to arrange the papers 
of the Cabildo in proper order and that the book will be made when 
they can get the paper, there not being a single sheet amongst all 
the members of the Cabildo, &c.' 

This was the unrelieved dismalness of the Trinidad scene from 1498. 
By itself Spain was impotent. Africa and France came to the rescue 
and changed the whole course of the history of Trinidad. 


Africa to the Rescue 

Who were these Africans? They were dragged by the millions from 
their native land in Africa to the Western Hemisphere. What began 
as a mere trickle in 1441, with twelve African slaves captured by the 
Portuguese and taken to Portugal, became a roaring torrent in the 
18th and 19th centuries, and one estimate, almost certainly on the 
conservative side, is that the slave trade cost Africa at least 50,000,000 
souls. Africans became important elements in the population in all 
the Caribbean countries, in Brazil, and in the United States of 
America. They constituted also an important element in the popula- 
tion of Trinidad and Tobago, and were automatically resorted to, 
as in other parts of the Spanish dominions, as soon as the decimation 
of the Amerindians by the Spanish conquest was recognised. It would 
therefore be in any case important to identify this new addition to 
the population of Trinidad and Tobago. It is all the more important 
today because of the historical lie of African inferiority. 

The first and one of the most important of the strictures on the 
inferiority of African Negroes was expressed by the celebrated British 
philosopher, David Hume, in his essay *Of National Characters' 
written in 1753. This reads as follows: 

*I am apt to suspect the Negroes to be naturally inferior to the 
Whites. There scarcely ever was a civilised nation of that com- 
plexion, nor ever any individual, eminent either in action or specula- 
tion. No ingenious manufactures among them, no arts, no sciences. 
On the other hand, the most rude and barbarous of the Whites, 
such as the ancient Germans, the present Tartars, have still some- 
thing eminent about them in their valour, form of government, 
or some other particular. Such a uniform and constant difference 
could not happen, in so many countries and ages, if nature had not 
made an original distribution between these breeds of men. Not 
to mention our colonies, there are Negro slaves dispersed all over 
Europe, of whom none ever discovered any symptoms of ingenuity; 
though low people, without education, will start up amongst us, and 
distinguish themselves in every profession. In Jamaica, indeed, they 
talk of one Negro (Francis Williams) as a man of parts and learn- 
ing; but it is likely he is admired for slender accomplishments, 
like a parrot who speaks a few words plainly.' 

Hume was writing from England, and he knew nothing of the 
plantation system in the West Indies. But if this could have been said 
by a British philosopher, the father of scepticism, one could imagine 
what would be said by British planters on the slave plantations, sur- 
rounded by hundreds of Negro slaves of whom they lived in mortal 



dread. A Jamaican planter, Edward Long, who wrote a history of 
Jamaica in 1774, concluded that Negroes are *a different species of 
the same genus*, equal in intellectual faculties to the orang-outang, 
which, he claimed, has in form a much nearer resemblance to the 
Negro than the Negro bears to the white man. 

Thomas Jefferson, the second President of the United States of 
America, was in a little difficulty to reconcile his views of a states- 
man on the natural rights of man with his interest as a Virginian 
planter. The contradiction reflected itself in the following views on 
the inferiority of Negroes : 

The opinion that they are inferior in the faculties of reason and 
imagination must be hazarded with great diffidence. To justify a 
general conclusion requires many observations, even where the sub- 
ject may be submitted to the anatomical knife, to optical glasses, 
to analysis by fire or by solvents. How much more then where it is 
a faculty, not a substance, we are examining; where it eludes the 
research of all the senses; where the conditions of its existence 
are various and variously combined; where the effects of those 
which are present or absent bid defiance to calculation; let me 
add too, as a circumstance of great tenderness, where our conclu- 
sion would degrade a whole race of men from the rank in the scale 
of beings which their Creator may perhaps have given them. To 
our reproach it must be said, that though for a century and a half 
we have had under our eyes the races of black and of red men, 
they have never yet been viewed by us as subjects of natural history. 
I advance it, therefore, as a suspicion only, that the blacks, whether 
originally a distinct race, or made distinct by time and circum- 
stances, are inferior to the whites in the endowments both of body 
and mind.' 

The depreciation and disparagement passed on into the period after 
emancipation. A quarter of a century after emancipation by Britain, 
Anthony Trollope, the distinguished English novelist, of whom we 
shall have more to say later, paid a visit to the West Indies, as a result 
of which he wrote of the emancipated Negro of Jamaica : 

'But yet he has made no approach to the civilisation of his white 
fellow creatures, whom he imitates as a monkey does a man . . . 
he is idle, unambitious as to worldly position, sensual, and content 
with little. Intellectually, he is apparently capable of but little 
sustained effort; but, singularly, enough, here he is ambitious. He 
burns to be regarded as a scholar, puzzles himself with fine words, 
addicts himself to religion for the sake of appearance, and delights 
in aping the little graces of civilisation. He despises himself 
thoroughly, and would probably be content to starve for a month 
if he could appear as a white man for a day; but yet he delights 
in the signs of respect paid to him, black man as he is, and is always 
thinking of his own dignity. If you want to win his heart for an 


hour, call him a gentleman; but if you want to reduce him to a 
despairing obedience, tell him that he is a filthy nigger, assure him 
that his father and mother had tails like monkeys, and forbid him 
to think that he can have a soul like a white man ... I do 
not think that education has as yet done much for the black man 
in the Western world. He can always observe, and often read; but 
he can seldom reason. I do not mean to assert that he is absolutely 
without mental power, as the calf is. He does draw conclusions, 
but he carries them only a short way . . / 

A little more than a quarter of a century later another distinguished 
English intellectual, this time the Professor of Modern History at 
Oxford, James Anthony Froude, of whom we shall have very much 
to say later, visited the West Indies. By this time, half a century after 
emancipation, one would have imagined that the metropolitan govern- 
ment would have had ample time to remedy the 'defects of character* 
of the emancipated African. Addressing himself also to this question 
which for over three centuries had been bothering the minds of 
Europeans, the question of Negro inferiority, Froude offered this 
contribution to the discussion: 

'The West Indian Negro is conscious of his own defects, and 
responds more willingly than most to a guiding hand. He is faith- 
ful and affectionate to those who are just and kind to him, and 
with a century or two of wise administration he might prove that 
his inferiority is not inherent, and that with the same chances as 
the white he may rise to the same level . . . The poor black was 
a faithful servant as long as he was a slave. As a free man he is 
conscious of his inferiority at the bottom of his heart, and would 
attach himself to a rational white employer with at least as much 
fidelity as a spaniel. Like the spaniel, too, if he is denied the chance 
of developing under guidance the better qualities which are in him, 
he will drift back into a mangy cur.' 

So there we were. In Trinidad, and in the other parts of the Spanish 
West Indies, the conquest had decimated the Amerindian population, 
whom the jurist Sepulveda had contemptuously dismissed as being 
closer to the monkey than to man. So the Spaniards and other 
Europeans after them, promptly proceeded to introduce, as a sub- 
stitute for Amerindian labour, the labour of slaves from Africa whom 
they regarded as closer to the monkey than to man, so much closer 
in fact that fifty years after the abolition of slavery they were still 
closer to the monkey than to man. 

This was obviously an extravaganza. But the more fundamental 
question arises, why the absurdity? 

The explanation is, not that the Africans had no civilisation and 
knew nothing of manufactures, arts and sciences, even if this could 
properly constitute the justification of their enslavement. It was 
precisely the opposite, that the Africans were civilised, as the stand- 


ard of medieval civilisation went, but that, since they, like the less 
developed Amerindians in the West Indies, could not withstand the 
onslaught of superior weapons and superior technology, one could 
only justify the enslavement of civilised men by the alibi that they 
were not men at all but were at the level of brutes in the order of 

Within the last two or three years a most remarkable condensa- 
tion and collation, in an easy popular style, of the vast mass of 
archaeological and historical research on the Continent of Africa 
has been made available through the pen of Mr Basil Davidson. His 
two books, Old Africa Rediscovered and Black Mother, are suffi- 
cient refutation of the indictment drawn up against the whole people 
of Africa for some four centuries. 

Archaeological research in Ethiopia, Egypt, Kenya, Rhodesia, the 
Sudan and West Africa has brought to light a most astonishing 
civilisation in Africa going right down from the ancient world to the 
16th century. We know today, what possibly David Hume and 
Thomas Jefferson and Anthony Trollope and James Anthony Froude 
did not know, safely ensconced as they were in the superiority of 
imperialism, that metallurgy was highly developed and spread all over 
Africa to the point where the blacksmiths were often treated as a 
social privileged caste; Davidson describes the ruins of the ancient 
city of Meroe in Egypt, the Birmingham of Ancient Africa, as among 
the great monuments of the ancient world, their history being an im- 
portant part of the history of man. We know today, from the great 
number of specimens of the Nok Figurine Cult, that more than 2,000 
years ago people on the Nigerian plateau were making fine heads in 
terracotta in great abundance. We know today from the ruins at 
Engaruka in Kenya discovered in 1935 that the people of Kenya had 
been able to develop, some three hundred years ago, a city of some 
7,000 well-built houses, with a population estimated at between 30,000 
to 40,000 with well-made stone walls, terraces, and other works asso- 
ciated with cultivation and irrigation. 

And we know today, from the archaeological researches of Dr 
Gertrude Caton-Thompson among the enormous ruins of Zimbabwe 
in what is now Rhodesia, whose competence for self-government is 
being questioned, that African architects were able to build huge 
military and religious structures that compare with the best in ancient 
Athens. So explosive were the political and racialist implications of 
this discovery that it was for long concealed; when it was eventually 
reported, it was attributed to the influence of the Orient or Europe 
or Phoenicia. 

The best indication of the unwillingness of Europeans to accept 
as African the work of Africa because this would have contradicted 
the conventional rationalisation expressed in Hume's dictum that 
Africans had no arts and no sciences, was the enormous discovery 
of the masterpieces of Benin brought back from an expedition in 
1897, These famous Benin Bronzes, from what is today Southern 


Nigeria, are now accepted as entirely African, indicative of the 
maturity of the iron age in Africa. They were at first regarded, how- 
ever, as of Greek origin or even as products of the European Renais- 
sance, and one well-known British imperialist attributed them to the 
inspiration of the Portuguese. They stand in the British Museum in 
London, together with the famous Golden Death Mask of an Ashanti 
King in the Wallace collection, as living proof of the capacity of these 
Africans defamed by Hume and Jefferson and Trollope and Froude 
and degraded by centuries of plantation slavery. 

In addition to the archaeological evidence, there is the historical 
data which has become available in increasing quantities in recent 
years and which modern progressive thinking has been more and 
more willing to bring into the open. We have available today a 
number of Arabic manuscripts and records of Africa. There is an 
account of East Africa in 947 by El Mas'Udi and Edrisi's geography 
in 1154. We have El Bekri's account of Ghana contemporary with 
the Norman Conquest of England. We have the accounts of that 
inveterate traveller in Asia and in Africa, Ibn Battuta. We have the 
Tarikh es Sudan of Abderrahman es Sadi, a chronicle and descrip- 
tion of Timbuktu around 1655. We have another work, written also 
in Arabic, largely on account of the ancient kingdom of Songhay, 
the Tarikh el Fettach of Mahmoud Kati, a learned Negro citizen of 
Timbuktu. We have also the well-known description of Africa in 1526 
by a converted Moor, Leo Africanus, the prot6g6 of Pope Leo X. 
There are also the works of the more modern writers, like the traveller 
Mungo Park, Heinrich Barth in the middle of the 19th century who 
drew on the Muslim records, and in the early 20th century the greatest 
of all students of African civilisation, Leo Frobenius. 

The archaeological evidence and the historical data combine to 
give us an astonishing picture of these ancient African cultures, which 
is only confirmed by observations and accounts of the early Portu- 
guese conquerors in West Africa, especially in the Congo. 

We know today of the great West African Empires, first the King- 
dom of Ghana, secondly, the Empire of Mali, the Mandingo State 
that followed Ghana, thirdly the Songhay Empire which succeeded 
Mali. The King of Ghana in 1067, Tenkamenin, was described as 
master of a great Empire and of a power just as formidable, who 
could put 200,000 warriors in the field, more than 40,000 of them 
armed with bows and arrows. Ibn Battuta was able to write of the 
Mandingo State of Mali: 'One has the impression that Mandingo 
was a real state whose organisation and civilisation could be compared 
with those of the Musselman kingdoms or indeed the Christian king- 
doms of the same epoch.' Timbuktu, for so long a name of reproach, 
was one of the great cities of learning in the world in the 14th century, 
famous for its scholars and its books and its Sankure mosque. *Let 
them go and do business with the King of Timbuktu and Mali', was 
the advice of Ramusio, Secretary to the Doge of Venice, to the mer- 
chants of Italy in 1563. Askia the Great ascended the Songhay throne 


in 1493, shortly after Columbus discovered the West Indies. He 
reigned for 19 years, ruler of a vast central state in which the city of 
Gao was, for learning, for trade and government, what Timbuktu 
was to Mali. As Leo Africanus wrote of the city, 'It is a wonder to 
see what plenty of merchandise is daily brought hither, and how costly 
and sumptuous all things be.' 

These accounts, contemporary with the great age of African civilisa- 
tion, were confirmed by early Portuguese invaders. An Italian priest 
in 1687, Father Cavazzi, had this complaint to make of the states of 
the Congo: 

'With nauseating presumption, these nations think themselves 
the foremost men in the world, and nothing will persuade them 
to the contrary. Never having been outside of Africa they imagine 
that Africa is not only the greatest part of the world, but also the 
happiest and most agreeable. Similar opinions are held by the king 
himself but in a manner still more remarkable. For he is persuaded 
that there is no other monarch in the world who is his equal, or 
exceeds him in power or the abundance of wealth.' 

What destroyed this civilisation was the European slave trade. The 
Europeans came for gold and ivory and found that it was more 
profitable to take Negroes. On arrival in the Congo, the Portuguese 
were welcomed and treated as equals, and a remarkable correspond- 
ence developed between the King of Portugal and the King of the 
Congo, each addressing the other as my 'Royal Brother.' One of the 
sons of the King of the Congo was elevated by the Pope to the rank 
of Bishop on May 5, 1518, on the formal proposal of four Cardinals, 
as the first African Bishop, and a Congolese Embassy appeared in 
Rome in 1513. But the Congo had the first colonial experience of 
requests for technical assistance from a metropolitan country. The 
King of Portugal repeatedly refused to agree to the request of the 
King of the Congo to give him a ship or the means of building one, 
and the pitiful letter of the King of the Congo in 1526 requesting the 
King of Portugal to send him drugs, two physicians, two druggists, 
and one surgeon would readily evoke the sympathy of colonials. 

Equality was superseded by slavery. One million slaves were taken 
from Angola in the first century of European contact, as we read in 
a Description of the Kingdom of Congo published in 1680 by Oliviera 
Cadornega: other reports indicate the extraction of a further half 
a million slaves from the neighbouring land of the Congo. 

No society could hope to withstand such a pressure. As the demand 
for slaves grew in voracity, the supply had to be sought further and 
further inland. Africans enslaved other Africans; the best means 
of defence was attack, and one enslaved in order not to be enslaved 
oneself. European guns intensified the tribal warfare fomented by 
the slave trade. African cupidity was nourished on European greed. 
A pitiful letter from the King of the Congo in 1526 to King John III 
of Portugal reads as follows : 


'We cannot reckon how great the damage is, since the above- 
mentioned merchants daily seize our subjects, sons of the land and 
sons of our noblemen and vassals and our relatives . . . Thieves 
and men of evil conscience take them because they wish to possess 
the things and wares of this Kingdom . . . They grab them and cause 
them to be sold: and so great, Sir, is their corruption and licen- 
tiousness that our country is being utterly depopulated. And to 
avoid [them], we need from [your] Kingdoms no other than priests 
and people to teach in schools, and no other goods but wine and 
flour for the holy sacrament; that is why we beg of Your Highness 
to help and assist us in this matter, commanding your factors that 
they should send here neither merchants nor wares, because it is 
our mil that in these kingdoms [of Congo] there should not be any 
trade in slaves nor market for slaves.' 

The King of the Congo might as well have appealed to the wolves. 
More than two and a half centuries later, an African King of Senegal 
enacted a law that no slaves whatever should be marched through 
his territories. The law remained a dead letter. African was set against 
African in order to provide slaves for European traders to be transpor- 
ted to the European sugar plantations in Trinidad and the West Indies. 

Leo Frobenius, has passed judgment on this medieval African 
civilisation and on this great lie of the European slave traders, their 
governmental promoters and their intellectual defenders, that Africa 
had no history before the arrival of the Europeans. Frobenius has 
written in his history of African Civilisation, originally published in 
German, and, perhaps not surprisingly, never translated into English: 

'When they [the first European navigators of the end of the 
Middle Ages] arrived in the Gulf of Guinea and landed at Vaida, 
the captains were astonished to find streets well cared for, bordered 
for several leagues in length by two rows of trees; for many days 
they passed through a country of magnificent fields, a country in- 
habited by men clad in brilliant costumes, the stuff of which they 
had woven themselves! More to the South in the kingdom. of the 
Congo, a swarming crowd dressed in silk and velvet; great states 
well ordered, and even to the smallest details, powerful sovereigns, 
rich industries - civilized to the marrow of their bones. And the 
condition of the countries on the eastern coast - Mozambique, for 
example - was quite the same. 

'What was revealed by the navigators of the fifteenth to the 
seventeenth centuries furnishes an absolute proof that Negro 
Africa, which extended south of the desert zone of the Sahara, was 
in full efflorescence, in all the splendour of harmonious and well- 
informed civilisations, an efflorescence which the European con- 
quistadors annihilated as far as they progressed. For the new 
country of America needed slaves, and Africa had them to offer, 
hundreds, thousands, whole cargoes of slaves. However, the slave 


trade was never an affair which meant a perfectly easy conscience, 
and it exacted a justification; hence one made of the Negro a half- 
animal, an article of merchandise. And in the same way the notion 
of fetish was invented as a symbol of African religion. As for me, 
I have seen in no part of Africa the Negroes worship a fetish. The 
idea of "barbarous Negro*' is a European invention which has con- 
sequently prevailed in Europe until the beginning of this century.' 

These were the people who were brought to Trinidad and the West 
Indies to take the place of the Amerindian inhabitants, and to become, 
as the Brazilian sociologist, Gilberto Freyre, has written, 'the white 
man's greatest and most plastic collaborator in the task of agrarian 
colonisation' in the Western Hemisphere. Slavery on the West Indian 
sugar plantation allowed them neither time nor scope nor encourage- 
ment to develop their native capacity and to reproduce their native 
arts and crafts. Deliberately divided to break up not only families 
but also tribes in order that they might more easily be ruled, the 
absence of a common language and the mixing up of different customs 
and cultural traits were further obstacles in their way. Once freed, 
however, of the incubus of slavery and the restraints on their native 
talent, they were able to develop in a surprising manner, as the Bush 
Negroes of Surinam have demonstrated. 

The Bush Negroes of Surinam were runaway slaves who fled the 
plantations, like the Maroons in Jamaica, and lived in the impene- 
trable jungle, isolated from the slave society, in communities organ- 
ised on the African pattern. The Bush Negroes, like the Maroons, 
fought for decades against superior European soldiers, so success- 
fully that they anticipated the later slave revolution in Saint Domin- 
gue and established independent African states thirty or forty years 
before the Independence of Haiti was achieved. The Dutch signed a 
treaty with the Bush Negroes, as the British did with the Maroons, 
guaranteeing them their independence. Safe from the Dutch above 
the waterfalls, expert oarsmen and builders of boats, the Bush Negroes 
have been able to maintain their independence, and it is only today 
that they are being brought into the stream of the national community 
in Surinam with the emergence of the nationalist movement and its 
penetration of the hitherto impenetrable jungle with a huge road to 
the Brokopondo region where American investors mining bauxite are 
collaborating with the Surinam Government in the construction of a 
vast hydro-electric project. 

The African arts and capacity for civilisation which Hume depre- 
ciated and denied are very much in evidence in Surinam today and 
are the theme of a remarkable little volume published in 1954 by 
P. J. C. Dark, entitled Bush Negro Art: An African Art in the 
Americas. Evidence of their art, using wood, principally in the form 
of panellings, trays, vessels and paddles as well as canoes, is being 
brought more and more to public notice by the deliberate decision of 
the Government of Surinam to decorate and embellish public build- 


ings with representations of Bush Negro art. One can find in any curio 
shop in Surinam folding chairs made by the Bush Negroes, all in one 
piece, of intricate workmanship and elegant design. One finds mas- 
sive and neatly decorated combs used by the women for dressing their 
hair. One finds beautiful trays, all round, always carved from one 
piece of wood, of varying sizes ranging in diameter from 15 to 30 
inches, decorated in some cases with most elaborate designs. Most of 
the carvings have symbolic associations with sex; many, although of 
utilitarian value, are also carved as love tokens. 

Whilst it is not unlikely that the Bush Negroes, through their 
slavery on the Surinam sugar plantations, had become familiar with 
European art, particularly that of cabinet and furniture making, the 
emphasis in Bush Negro art is emphatically African. Mr Dark writes: 

'Apart from the facets of African culture which have contri- 
buted to the formation of Bush Negro society, many of which have 
retained their African forms today, there are many specific items 
of Bush Negro art which can be identified as African in origin. 
Most striking of these are drums, not only in form but in construc- 
tion, and in the form of pegging for tuning the skin stretched over 
the drum head. Some seats are similar to those found in West 
Africa. Carved wooden locks like those of the Bush Negro are found 
in West Africa and in the Sudan. The use of brass tacks and 
cartridge marks is widespread in Africa. Many other items could 
be listed and many suggestions of affinities are to be found in the 
works of such as Linblom, van Panhuys, Kahn and Herskovits. 
The main problem, however, is the difficulty of assigning a specific 
trait to a specific provenance in West Africa. Some Bush Negro 
intertwined eight designs are very similar to those found on Benin 
bronze work. Other designs are similar to those found on Nupe 
brass trays. A photograph of some contemporary Yoruban ivory 
combs in the possession of the writer, at first glance looks like a 
photograph of Bush Negro combs. Perhaps it might be tentatively 
suggested that the Ashanti, Dahomeans and Yorubans contributed 
most to Bush Negro art. All in all the contributions made by the 
various provenances of Africa are not separable. It is clear that 
many traits were contributed from that continent and much of the 
subjective feeling engendered by Bush Negro art recalls African 
work. Further, Bush Negro art owes most to its African origins/ 
As far as Trinidad is concerned, we have a study by the well-known 
American anthropologist, Melville J. Herskovits, of African survivals 
m his book, Trinidad Village. The book is a study of the village of 
Toco in 1946. Herskovits analysed the cultural integration, the amal- 
gam of Europe and Africa, which was Toco, with the emphasis on 
the retention and reinterpretation of African customs and beliefs 

For example, he found the diet of the people of Toco marked by 
certain dishes that came directly from Africa. The most important 
of these dishes were sweet and salt pemi and sansam, pounded parched 


corn mixed with salt or sugar and eaten dry; cachop, a special Yoruba 
dish, made of cornmeal baked in a pot rather than boiled. Callaloo, 
for which Trinidad is famous, is well-known as an African dish over 
all the New World, Accra, boiled salted fish dipped into flour, 
flavoured liberally with pepper sauce, and fried in deep fat, is another 
well-known African inheritance. 

Herskovits found also that the eating habits in Toco were African, 
and so was the sexual differentiation of labour. The Gayap, the 
Trinidad version of the Haitian cownbite, is essentially African. So 
is the *papa-bois' and the susu, the savings device of the people taken 
over without change of name from their Yoruba ancestors. 

The high economic status of the women in Toco corresponded with 
the position of women in West African society. The well-known Trini- 
dad custom of the legal marriage subsisting side by side with the in- 
formal union termed 'keepers', or, as the Trinidad wits would put 
it, the combination of de jure wife and de facto wife, which has pro- 
vided the basis for extensive moralising both at home and abroad 
on the illegitimacy statistics, is seen by Herskovits as the 'translation, 
in terms of the monogamic pattern of European mating, of basic West 
African forms that operate within a polygynous frame.' 

The shouters and the shango, the latter the God of Thunder of the 
Yoruba people, have come to Trinidad straight from Africa. So have 
the traditions of burials, especially in respect of wakes, with which 
the Bongo is traditionally associated - as it is in the well-known 
calypso, Tonight is the bongo night*. The prevalence of and the con- 
cern with obeah, magic and divination also have an African inspira- 
tion: the use of the frizzle fowl to detect any charm set against its 
owner, placing a broom upside down near the door, putting in front 
of a doorway grains of cereal to be counted, leaving a needle with 
a broken eye to be threaded -all techniques for protection against 
the evil eye, a combination of the French loupgarou and the West 
African vampire. 

Finally, most important of all, the calypso for which Trinidad has 
become famous, the use of song to comment on current happenings, 
to phrase social criticism, to convey innuendo, is in the African tradi- 
tion. As Herskovits writes : 

'Even though some of the music is cast in the mould of European 
folk tunes, and the words are in English, nothing of African purport 
or intent has been erased. For despite its non-African form, this 
musical complex can be regarded as nothing less than a retention 
of the purest type.' 

These were the people who came in their thousands to the West 
Indies, though in relatively limited numbers to Trinidad during the 
slave period, to develop for the colonies of all the European metro- 
politan countries what a British writer in the middle of the 18th 
century described as *a magnificent superstructure of American com- 
merce on an African foundation.' 


Spain Reigns but France Governs 

Africa had been brought in by Spain into Trinidad and the West 
Indies as the solution of the labour problem. France was now brought 
into Trinidad as the solution of the problem of white management. A 
French planter from Grenada, Roume de St Laurent, visited Trinidad 
and submitted a memorandum to the King of France on March 20, 
1777. The result of this memorandum was to transform a backward 
Amerindian colony governed by Spain into a Spanish colony run by 
Frenchmen and worked by African slaves. 

The proposals of Roume de St Laurent were designed to facili- 
tate the immigration of French planters into Trinidad. In effect they 
amounted to the setting up of a French State within a Spanish State. 
There was nothing singular in such a condominium in a single island, 
either in fact or in law. In 1685 Brandenburg, one of the States in the 
German confederation, had agreed with the Danes in St Thomas in 
the Virgin Islands for the lease of an area in St Thomas for the em- 
ployment of 200 slaves. For some 70 years before the Treaty of 
Utrecht in 1713, English and French jointly occupied the island of 
St Kitts. Even today the tiny island of St Martin is shared between 
France and Holland. 

The essence of the plan of Roume de St Laurent was the transfer 
of as many planters as possible and their African slaves from the 
French islands of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica, St Lucia, St 
Vincent and Grenada. He emphasised that all of them suffered more 
or less from a variety of hardships: hurricanes, ants which destroyed 
the sugar crop, bankruptcy, debts, the low price of coffee, and soil 
exhaustion. He was afraid that the British mainland colonies of North 
America would offer such incentives to these planters that they would 
migrate to populate the States of Georgia, Carolina and Florida. In 
his opinion they should be, as far as possible, encouraged to remain 
in the West Indies, preferably in Trinidad, where he argued that the 
interest of both France and Spain would be strengthened as against 
Great Britain. 

St Laurent estimated that some 383 white families would be 
interested in these proposals. Of these 286 were from Martinique, 40 
from Dominica and 57 from Grenada. Allowing four persons to a 
family, this meant a possible addition to the white population of Trini- 
dad of 1,532 persons. These would bring with them a total of 33,322 
African slaves of whom 24,710 were in Martinique, 3,647 in Dominica 
and 4,965 in Grenada. 

The very first glimpse of the possible development of Trinidad in- 
volved, in other words, migration from the neighbouring small islands. 

The Spanish Government accepted the proposals of Roume de St 



Laurent. On November 20, 1783, the King of Spain issued the famous 
cedula of population opening Trinidad's doors under certain con- 
ditions to foreign immigrants. The terms of the cedula, summarised, 
were as follows: 

1. The foreigners must be Roman Catholics and subjects of nations 
in alliance with Spain. 

2. They must take an oath of allegiance to Spain and agree to abide 
by the Spanish laws. 

3. Every white immigrant, male or female, would receive 4 fanegas 
and 2/7ths of land and in addition half of that quantity for each 
slave introduced by him. 

4. Free Negroes and people of colour would receive half the 
quantity of land assigned to whites, with an additional half for 
each slave introduced by them. 

5. After five years residence in Trinidad the settlers and their child- 
ren would have all the rights and privileges of naturalisation, 
including eligibility for public office and posts in the militia. 

6. No head tax or personal tribute would be imposed upon the 
settlers at any time, except that after ten years they would each 
pay an annual sum of $1.00 for each Negro or coloured slave 
with the guarantee that this sum would never be augmented. 

7. During the first five years the settlers would be free to return 
to their countries or former place of abode and to take with them 
all goods and property introduced by them into Trinidad without 
any export duty. 

8. The settlers would be free from the payment of tithes on the 
produce of their lands for ten years beginning January 1, 1785, 
after which they would pay only one-half tithe, that is to say, 
5 per cent. 

9. For the first ten years the settlers would be free from the pay- 
ment of the royal duty on the sales of their produce and 
merchantable effects, after which they would pay only 5 per 
cent; but all their exports shipped to Spain in Spanish vessels 
would be for ever exempt from any duty on exportation. 

10. All vessels belonging to the settlers, whatever their tonnage or 
make, would be registered in Trinidad and accounted Spanish 
vessels, as well as vessels acquired from foreigners by purchase 
or legal title before the end of the year 1786. 

11. The Negro slave trade would be totally free of duties for a period 
of ten years reckoned from the beginning of the year 1785, after 
which the settlers would pay only 5 per cent on the current value 
of slaves at the time of their importation. 

12. The settlers would be permitted, under Government licence, 
to go to the West Indian islands in alliance with Spain, or to 
neutral islands, to procure slaves, on the understanding that only 
Spanish ships would be used. 

13. For ten years computed from the beginning of the year 1785, 


Spanish subjects would be free to make voyages to Trinidad with 
their cargoes direct from ports of France in which Spanish Con- 
suls were resident and to return direct to those ports with the 
products of Trinidad, except money, the exportation of which 
was absolutely prohibited by that route. 

14. The royal officials in Caracas were instructed to purchase on 
the King's account and transport to Trinidad black cattle, mules 
and horses, and to sell them to the settlers at prime cost until 
such time as they had sufficient stock to supply themselves. 

15. Similar instructions were issued with respect to the supply of 
flour and meal to Trinidad for a period of ten years. 

16. All Spanish manufactures needed by the settlers for their 
agriculture were to be imported into Trinidad and sold to the 
settlers at prime cost during a period of ten years. 

17. Two priests of known erudition and exemplary virtue and expert 
in foreign languages were to be appointed to Trinidad to act as 
parish priests to the new settlers. 

18. The settlers were permitted to propose to the King, through the 
Governor, such Ordinances as were necessary for regulating 
the treatment of their slaves and preventing their flight. 

19. The Governor was to take the utmost care to prevent the intro- 
duction of ants into Trinidad. 

20. When the cultivation of sugar had become fully expanded in 
Trinidad, the settlers were to be allowed to establish refineries 
in Spain with all the privileges and freedom from duties pre- 
viously extended to Spaniards or foreigners. 

21. The settlers would enjoy the privilege of directing representa- 
tions to the King through the medium of the Governor and the 
General Secretary of State for the Indies. 

This, in modern parlance, was the first set of incentives offered in 
Trinidad to attract foreign capital. It constituted a confession of the 
total failure of Spanish colonialism. The Spanish Exclusive could be 
maintained only inclusive of France. 

Not content, the Spanish government went further a little more 
than two years later. On January 30, 1786, another decree amended 
the cedula of colonisation and liberalised the incentives. The 5 per 
cent in lieu of tithes and the 5 per cent royal duty on the sales of 
their products, which the settlers were to pay after ten years, were 
reduced to 2* per cent. The time for naturalising foreign built mer- 
chant vessels was extended from 1786 to 1788. The exemption from 
duty on the importation of Negro slaves was extended from ten years 
and made perpetual, and the duty of 5 per cent which the settlers 
were to pay after ten years was for ever abolished. Instead of paying 
5 per cent on all produce exported to foreign countries for the purpose 
of purchasing slaves, they were to pay only 3 per cent. The duty on 
the export of produce to France was similarly reduced from 5 per 
cent to 3 per cent, and a similar reduction was made on all produce 


exported for the purpose of purchasing flour whenever there was a 
scarcity in the islands. 

This liberal policy was followed by permission of the King of 
Spain to the Governor of Trinidad, on April 20, 1790, to raise from 
any European nation whatsoever a loan in the sum of $1 million on 
condition that it would be repaid from the value of the crops in their 
plantations. This, Trinidad's first loan on the world market, was proof 
that colonial development could not be achieved under the umbrella 
of any one country and was in fact a condemnation of the very 
foundation on which European colonialism had rested up to that date. 
It compares favourably with the uproar raised in the House of Com- 
mons in 1772 when a proposal was first mooted to permit foreign 
investment in the West Indian territories acquired by Britain from 
France at the Peace of Paris in 1763. 

The cedula of colonisation, virtually coinciding with the arrival 
in Trinidad of its most distinguished Governor, Don Jose Maria 
Chacon, was the signal for an unprecedented development of the 
Trinidadian economy, as well as an unprecedented initiative on the 
part of the Governor of Trinidad. Chacon himself, a man of no mean 
intellectual gifts and administrative ability, proceeded to reorganise 
the ineffective government which he had inherited. One of his first 
and most important measures was his reorganisation in 1787 of the 
administrative divisions of the colony which he divided into three 
parts with a Commissioner of Population in charge of each. The three 
divisions were as follows: the first, Las Cuevas, Salybia, Guanapo, 
Tacarigua, Laventille, St Ann's, Tragarete, Maraval, Diego Martin, 
Carenage (virtually the limits of the present County of St George); 
the second, Naparima, Galeota, Cocal and Guatero; the third, Guapo, 
Los Gallos and Guayaguayare. 

These comprehensive regulations, as expanded in 1788, are a good 
example of Spanish paternalism. 

The first responsibility of the Commissioners of Population was 
a census of population, distinguishing free men from slaves, identi- 
fying class and national origin. Anyone changing his estate or plan- 
tation was required to notify the Commissioners, who had to submit 
a statement of the population to the Governor in December of each 
year, noting the births and deaths in that year. 

The second responsibility of the Commissioners related to agri- 
culture. They were to ascertain the area of land cleared, the area 
cultivated, the crops grown, the yield of those crops, the labour and 
machinery employed on plantations. They were to measure and survey 
each plantation and to verify all litigation, past and pending; no land 
was to be alienated or sold without notice to the Commissioners. 

The third responsibility of the Commissioners related to the roads. 
The Commissioners were to prepare plans for the course of Royal 
roads, to estimate their cost, and to recommend the means to be 
employed. They were to ensure that planters planted lime trees, trees 
of campeachy wood or other useful trees, interspersed with orange 


and other fruit trees, on the part of their estate bordering a public 
road, 'so as to delight the eye and temper the heat of the sun for the 
relief of travellers'. Twice a year the Commissioners were to arrange 
for the clearing and repairs of roads, distributing the work among 
the planters according to the number of slaves belonging to each, the 
quantity of land owned, and the frontage on each public road. 

The policing of the island was the Commissioners fourth respon- 
sibility. They were to take cognisance of all robberies, quarrels and 

The Commissioners, in the fifth place, were to pay special atten- 
tion to the government of the slaves. They were to prevent inhuman- 
ity to and ill-treatment of the slaves, to ensure that each plantation 
grew an adequate quantity of provisions for the maintenance of the 
slaves, and to note particularly all offences involving slave and master 
or slave and freeman. 

One can well understand what Chacon meant when he decreed 
that the Commissioners were to know 'with the greatest exactitude' 
the lands in their respective divisions. 

Chacon's second major reform was, in a proclamation of July 27, 
1785, the removal of some of the confusion relating to land grants 
and land titles. All lands which had not been alienated by a formal 
concession were declared Crown lands. Immemorial possession ceased 
to be admitted as a sufficient title. Inhabitants who from a distant 
period of time held ungranted land, on condition that such land was 
cultivated, were given priority over other claimants in respect of free 
grants, provided that they presented themselves within three months 
to the Government to obtain their title of concession. All the ancient 
Spanish inhabitants who, without title of property and concession, 
claimed lands in different parts covered with wood, because they had 
not the means to clear them, were within three months to select the 
situation in which they wished to establish themselves and present 
themselves in order to obtain a grant thereof. A stop was put to the 
excessive ambition of many Spaniards who wished to be proprietors 
of considerable areas of lands in different localities though they were 
unable to put a single acre into cultivation, and who, quitting these, 
passed over to Crown lands on which they employed the little labour 
of which they were capable. The Proclamation required these persons 
to select within three months the site most suitable for their establish- 
ment, whether on their pretended property or on Crown lands. All 
the surplus land would revert to the King, to be distributed to others 
who would acquire and cultivate them. 

The spirit of the Proclamation was clearly stated as being to remove 
every impediment whatever to the cultivation of land. It was made 
clear that, should the legitimate possessor not have the means to work 
his lands, they would be granted to others who had the means 
of cultivating them on condition that these others paid to the possessor 
the sum or value for which they were obtained leaving the original 
owners such portion of land as they might be capable of cultivating. 


This Proclamation of Chacon in 1785 represented one of the most 
decisive and constructive efforts ever made in the West Indies to 
deal with the problem of latifundia or plantations which had, through- 
out the 17th and 18th centuries, impeded the full development of other 
colonies, particularly Jamaica. It was intended also to take care of 
the situation which had arisen in such colonies like Barbados and the 
Leeward Islands where the large plantation had made it difficult for 
the small white settler even to obtain a couple of acres of land for 
a small farm. 

The third major achievement of Chacon was the cedula of 1789 
for the protection of slaves. This is in the tradition of the more liberal 
Spanish legislation which prevailed in such colonies like Cuba and 
which compared favourably with the much harsher legislation of the 
British colonies. In this, perhaps, there was no necessary superiority 
of the Latin temperament over the Anglo-Saxon in respect of its 
dealings with subjugated races. Nowhere in the West Indies in 1789 
was there a greater hell on earth than the French colony of Saint 
Domingue (later known as Haiti) from which some of the very 
planters who later found refuge in Trinidad with their slaves were to 
migrate. If the Cuban law in 1789 was superior to or less harsh than 
the slave code in Saint Domingue or in Jamaica or in Barbados, it 
was because Saint Domingue, Jamaica and Barbados were plantation 
colonies producing enormous quantities of sugar for the world market. 

Cuba in 1789, like Trinidad in 1789, was relatively less developed 
economically, the large plantation was the exception rather than the 
rule, and it was possible for the slaves to live in that closer contact 
with their masters on which legislation like the Code Noir was 
predicated. When Cuba in 1860 became a typical plantation colony, 
like the Saint Domingue or Jamaica of 1789, there was very little evi- 
dence in practice of the Spanish temperament, and Cuba became as 
much a hell on earth as Saint Domingue had ever been, in which the 
Cuban planter could reply contemptuously to remonstrations about 
inhuman treatment of the slaves : 'the Negroes come here ready made, 
the bags of sugar have yet to be made*. 

Chacon's Code Noir, summarised, is as follows: 

1. All owners of slaves were obliged to instruct them in the prin- 
ciples of the Roman Catholic religion, were not to allow them 
to work on holy days, and were to provide at their expense a 
priest to say Mass for them and to administer the Holy Sacra- 
ments to them. At the end of every day's work the slaves were 
to say the Rosary in the presence of their master and his steward. 

2. The Justices of the districts in which the estates were situated 
were to determine the quality and quantity of the food and 
clothes to be given daily to the slaves. 

3. The first and principal occupation of slaves was to be agricul- 
tural and not labour that required a sedentary life. To this end 
the Justices of the towns and villages were to regulate the. work 


to be done by the slaves in the course of the day, two hours daily 
being allowed to the slaves for labour on their own account. No 
slave was to work over the age of 60 or below the age of 17, and 
the women slaves were to be employed in work appropriate to 
their sex. 

4. After Mass on holy days, slaves were to be free to divert them- 
selves innocently in the presence of masters and stewards, care 
being taken to prevent the mixing of slaves on different estates 
or male slaves with the female or very excessive drinking. These 
diversions were to be ended before the time for prayers. 

5. The slave owners were to provide commodious habitations for 
the slaves sufficient to protect them from the inclemencies of 
the weather with beds, blankets and other necessaries. Each slave 
was to have his own bed and there were to be no more than two 
slaves to a room. A separate habitation, warm and commodious, 
was to be provided as an infirmary for sick slaves. The slave 
owner was to pay the charges of a slave funeral. 

6. Slaves who, on account of old age or illness, were unable to 
work, as well as children, were to be maintained by their masters 
who were not to give them their liberty in order to get rid 
of them. 

7. Masters of slaves were to encourage matrimony among slaves. 

8. Slaves were not to be punished by more than 25 lashes, inflicted 
only by their masters or their stewards, in such a manner as not 
to cause contusion or effusion of blood, 

9. For more serious offences, the slaves were to be reported by their 
masters or stewards to the Justice. 

10. Masters or stewards who failed in the obligations imposed on 
them by the Cedula were to be fined $50 for the first offence, 
$100 for the second, and $200 for the third. 

11. Masters of slaves were to deliver annually to the Justice of the 
town or village in the district in which their estates were situated, 
a list signed and sworn to by them of all the slaves in their pos- 
session distinguishing sex and age. 

Two other points of general interest during Chacon's administra- 
tion may be noted. The first concerned the Cabildo. Chacon limited 
its powers to Port-of -Spain only and forced it to remove from 
St Joseph. The Cabildo received title to all municipal lands, and 
Chacon turned over to it also the islands of Monos, Huevos and 

And Chacon himself concentrated on the development and 
improvement of Port-of -Spain, which was then limited to an area 
embracing from Charlotte Street to Frederick Street as far north as 
Prince Street. All the surrounding areas, Laventille, Woodbrook, St 
Clair, St Ann's, Belmont, Maraval, Diego Martin, Chaguaramas, were 
under sugar cultivation. A major achievement of Chacon was the 
diversion of the St Ann's River (the Dry River) in 1787, the Spanish 


Government providing the necessary funds for the employment on 
the job of 638 slaves and 405 free people of colour. 

The effects of metropolitan liberalism and governmental efficiency 
in Trinidad were soon apparent. The Population of Trinidad in 1797 
was 17,643. Of these whites numbered 2,086; free people of colour 
4,466; Amerindians 1,082; Negro slaves 10,009. Of the total popula- 
tion there were 6,594 men of whom 929 were white, 1,196 free people 
of colour, 305 Amerindians and 4,164 slaves. Trinidad's production 
in 1797 amounted to 7,800 hogsheads of sugar from 159 sugar estates; 
330,000 pounds of coffee from 130 coffee estates; 96,000 pounds of 
cocoa from 60 cocoa estates; and 224,000 pounds of cotton from 103 
cotton estates. 

But the foundations of the colony, Spanish in name, French in fact, 
African at its base, were hopelessly insecure. None knew this better 
than Chacon himself. He knew that he could not defend Trinidad 
against any serious invasion. On May 6, 1796, in a letter to the Prince 
de la Paz, he warned the Spanish Government of impending disaster. 
He wrote as follows: 

'Our garrison is weak, we have no fortification and the lack of 
buildings of lime and stone leaves me without a prison, barracks, 
magazine or store house; in a word I am dependent on the good- 
will of a public composed of people of other nations with but a few 
of our own. In consequence they are disunited by race, they are 
in discord because of their habits, rivals by custom and enemies 
amongst themselves by the traditions of their nations and by the 
development of actual circumstances. 

'It was my duty to convince you and to warn you that frequent 
disputes between the English and the French on land here would 
involve the greater part of the population and the consequences 
could only be ruinous to all.' 

The danger foreseen by Chacon almost came to a head on one 
occasion in 1796 when a British warship followed a French ship into 
the harbour and landed in Port-of-Spain. French and English were 
drawn up in battle array, the English on what is now Frederick Street, 
and the French in Chacon Street. The Spanish Governor, with 
relatively few troops, placed himself between both lines of troops, 
and expostulated with them for violation of Spanish neutrality. A 
serious incident was averted, but the entire population of Port-of-Spain 
and many of the country slaves who found themselves in town were 
a witness to it. The French Revolution was at its height throughout 
all the West Indies and Chacon warned the Prince de la Paz of the 
possible consequences: 

The tricolour cockade which they worship as a symbol of 
liberty was displayed by many of these slaves and they persuaded 
their comrades to follow their example. 


This caused me to despatch several parties to the country to 
suppress right at the beginning such disorder, which is one of the 
most terrible in these Colonies where slavery is the basis of 
agriculture . . . 

'The contact which our people of colour and our Negro slaves 
have had with the French and Republicans have made them think 
of liberty and equality and the first spark will light the whole Colony 
into a blaze. 

The English are attacking the French islands and as many of the 
Republicans as can escape fly to the shores of Trinidad where 
there is no force to prevent them settling. The greater part are 
Mulattoes and Negroes which increases in consequence our num- 
bers, and infuses them with the same ideas and desires and make 
the danger of a rising more imminent each day.' 

Chacon was on the horns of a dilemma. He too had understood, 
as other West Indian Governors and officials had understood before 
him, that no Negroes, no sugar. The tremendous spurt which Trini- 
dad's economy had made was the result of slave labour. The con- 
tinuation and acceleration of economic development depended on the 
availability of more slaves, which only increased the internal danger 
and therefore aggravated the external danger. In his letter to the 
Prince de la Paz Chacon called therefore for military assistance, pen- 
ning in the process one of the most subtle indictments of metropolitan 
apathy to be found in all the records of the history of West Indian 

'The rapidity with which this Colony has been peopled and ex- 
tended is such that 4,000-5,000 Negroes are required each year 
and in two or three years many more will be requked. The produce 
is abundant and of good quality. 

'All this brings in riches not only to pay the actual cost of the 
Government of the Island but also to provide other facilities which 
are necessary and result in an active commercial community which 
is the pride of our metropolis, in industrial progress, in increased 
merchant shipping . . . 

'The previous establishments of the King in this Island were 
developed slowly, their requirements came little by little to the 
notice of the Ministry which had time to consider carefully all the 
difficulties, to discuss, compare and finally to select the best 

'In this development it is just the reverse. Special efforts were 
made to populate and to cultivate the land and in a few years much 
more produce was being raised than in other colonies of two 
centuries duration. 

This prosperity is such as to require much prompter decisions, 
and the difficulties must be met by executive action. It is not pos- 
sible to proceed with that leisurely manner and considered thought 
that is convenient in other places. 


'I have to insist on this difference, this necessity, this urgency 
and desire to fulfil my obligations and beseech in the name of this 
community their Sovereign's protection. May His Majesty be 
pleased to send with the quickest possible dispatch a division of two 
ships, two frigates and two small vessels such as brigantines . . . 
with 800 to 1,000 men to remain here at least during the war 
between the neighbouring nations, and to preserve the peace in 
this Colony.' 

It was in these circumstances that the British captured Trinidad 
from the Spaniards in 1797 when Britain and Spain were at war. The 
military forces at the disposal of Chacon, both on land and at sea in 
the Spanish naval base of Chaguaramas under Admiral Apodaca, were 
unequal to the forces at the disposal of the British Commander, Sir 
Ralph Abercromby. Chacon had four ships -one of 84 guns, two of 
74 guns, and one of 36 guns. Abercromby had 18 ships -one of 98 
guns, four of 74 guns, two of 64 guns, one of 44 guns, one of 33 guns, 
one of 32 guns, five of 16 guns, one of fourteen and one of twelve. 
The force at Chacon's disposal included 700 rank and file in 
the warships, chiefly recruits intended for the garrison at Cartagena, 
whose number was reduced to 500 by death and sickness. The local 
militia, strong on paper, was indisciplined and untrustworthy. Aber- 
cromby's land forces consisted of 7,650 men. 

Chacon had the slaves to contend with, and he was very doubtful 
of the loyalty of the free people of colour most of whom were French 
in origin and republican in politics. So Apodaca set fire to his ships 
in Chaguaramas Bay without a fight and Abercromby, landing at 
Mucurapo which was then a sugar estate, marched unmolested to the 
hills of Belmont to receive the capitulation of Chacon, whose forces 
were stationed on the Laventille hills. After 300 years of Spanish rule, 
Trinidad passed without a shot being fired into British hands. 

Chacon and Apodaca were subsequently tried before a Council of 
War in Cadiz appointed by the King. After hearing the evidence of 
the accused and the submissions of their lawyers, and having carefully 
examined the evidence, after full discussion, the Council of War una- 
nimously agreed that both Chacon and Apodaca had fully justified 
their actions and that they should forthwith be liberated. The Council 
recommended to the King to direct that their innocence should be 
proclaimed in all the Spanish dominions in both Europe and America 
and especially in the Province of Caracas and in the West Indies. 

The King of Spain was furious. His house of cards had come 
tumbling down on his head, so he had to find a scapegoat. He con- 
sidered that Chacon and Apodaca had failed to comply with their 
obligations in a position which was highly important to the King's 
service and criticised the decision of the Council of War as contrary 
to justice and to the public interest. The King's instructions as con- 
veyed to the Director General of the Royal Navy of Spain on March 
20, 1801, read as follows: 


'Having consulted his Council of Ministers His Majesty has been 
able to find sufficient extenuating circumstances, such as influenced 
the proceedings of the Council of War, to mitigate the necessity of 
providing a punishment which, notwithstanding all this, would have 
corresponded to their offences and would have served as an 
encouragement to those who find themselves in a similar position, 
to comply with all that their honour and their obligations to the 
Service require. 

'In consequence His Majesty has been pleased to decide that 
Don Jose Maria Chacon had not defended the Island of Trinidad 
as far as his circumstances allowed and that Don Sebastian Ruiz de 
Apodaca had decided prematurely to burn the ships under his com- 
mand and without strict observance of the orders provided for such 

'And therefore His Majesty has condemned the one and the 
other to deprivation of their respective j>osts from which they shall 
be forthwith recalled and also the first to perpetual banishment 
from all Royal Dominions . . . 

'It is further ordered that in no case, neither to Chacon nor to 
Apodaca ... is any appeal allowed and to this end His Majesty en- 
joins perpetual silence on these offenders.'* 

Thus ended three centuries of Spanish colonialism - in the injustice 
meted out to, and in the unnecessary humiliation inflicted on, the 
only Governor who could not be regarded as part of the metropolitan 
rubbish exported by Spain to the colonies. 

^ WaS rehabilitated d restored to his former rank and 


Tobago in a State of Betweenity 

If there was one West Indian colony with a sadder history than that 
of Trinidad in the first 300 years after its discovery by the Spaniards, 
that colony was Tobago. 

Trinidad suffered from the ineptitude and inefficiency of Spanish 
colonialism. Tobago suffered rather from the competition of rival 
colonialisms. In Trinidad the Spanish metropolitan government saw 
to it that nothing was done. In Tobago the conflict of the rival metro- 
politan governments made it impossible for anything to be done. If 
Trinidad remained a Spanish colony subject to occasional attacks by 
Spain's enemies, Tobago was no man's land. Whilst the Spanish flag, 
however tattered, continued to fly over Trinidad, Tobago changed flags 
almost as regularly as it changed seasons, and the people of Tobago 
lived, in a phrase made popular by wags in British Guiana who, simi- 
larly circumstanced, did not know where they were going from day 
to day, in a state of betweenity. 

It was a never-ending free-for-all in Tobago. Britain claimed the 
Island on the ground that it formed part of the acquisition of Sir 
Thomas Warner in 1626. France claimed it as part of the grant made 
by Cardinal Richelieu to the French West Indian Company some 
twenty years later. Holland, grant or no grant, asserted its own claim 
to the Island. Spain lived in constant apprehension of an attack from 
Tobago on Trinidad. The Duke of Courland, ruler of a principality 
in the area which is now Latvia, claimed it on the basis of a grant 
from the King of England in 1664. And even the buccaneers, operat- 
ing on a commission issued by the Governor of Jamaica, manifested 
an interest in the Island which reads curiously today in the light of 
Jamaica's notorious indifference to its Eastern Caribbean neighbours. 

This is how Tobago lived up the end of the 18th century - between 
Britain and France, or between France and Holland, or between 
Holland and Britain, now invaded by the buccaneers, now attacked 
by Spain, now settled by Courlanders. Holland changed the island's 
name and called it New Walcheren. The French changed the 
name of Scarborough and called it Port Louis. Betwixt and between, 
betwixt changes of ownership and between national flags -that was 
colonialism in Tobago. 

This metropolitan interest and these national flags more often than 
not were mere euphemisms for individual beneficiaries of the Euro- 
pean governments. Tobago was given away to individuals as if it was 
no more than an area of Crown land in another island. Take for 
example a letter from Lord Willoughby, Governor of Barbados, to the 
King of England on January 29, 1666, requesting a lease of Tobago 
for thirty-one years and all the profits that might arise from it, with 



the privilege of free trade. Willoughby undertook to surrender the 
island on the expiration of his lease well settled and improved. 

As another example, take the grant of Tobago made by the King of 
England to the Duke of Courland on November 17, 1664. The King 
of England granted Tobago to the Duke together with all the land, 
houses, creeks, rivers and profits belonging to the same. The condi- 
tions of the grant were that only subjects of the King of England or 
the Duke of Courland were to be permitted to settle in Tobago or 
build houses; English subjects were to enjoy all the privileges, liber- 
ties, immunities and benefits extended to the subjects of Courland, 
and to pay no taxes, contributions or impositions except those neces- 
sarily required for defence, and then equally in the same proportion 
paid by the subjects of the Duke. No products were to be exported 
out of Tobago or imported into Tobago except to or from English 
ports or Courland ports, or the City of Danzig. If England was at war 
the Duke of Courland undertook to provide one good ship of war with 
40 guns, to send the ship to such place as England decided, to man 
the ship with seamen and supply them with food and wages for their 
service which was not to exceed one year at any one time. 

Yet another example of a policy that was not far removed from the 
Spanish policy to the conquistadors, one Captain Poyntz signed an 
agreement with the Duke of Courland in 1680 whereby the Duke 
granted the Captain an area of 120,000 acres in Tobago and in return 
the Captain undertook to take to Tobago 1,200 persons within a period 
of three years, and another 1,200 persons within the next five years 
and to settle them on the land in Tobago. It was almost like taking 
chickens to Tobago, or rather it was almost like giving away Tobago 
as if it was a chicken itself. 

The final example of this English conquistador attitude to Tobago 
is the petition of one Moses Stringer, a physician, to the Queen of 
England in 1704. The petitioner requested a charter and letters patent 
for settling and fortifying the lands of Tobago and Trinidad, and, 
among other things, for building and endowing a college in Tobago. 
Because of the constant threat to Tobago from the Caribs in Trinidad, 
whose emperor, Dr Stringer asserted, went once a year to Tobago in 
his pirogues in procession around the island which he claimed as his 
own, Dr Stringer undertook, with Her Majesty's permission, to go 
at his own expense as Her Majesty's ambassador to the Emperor of 
the Carib nation and make a perpetual peace with him. 

In this free for all between the European nations, there was one 
policy common to all of them: that was that nobody should have 
Tobago. None of them could spare either the manpower or the ships 
really to develop the island and defend it, but none of them really 
wanted any of its rivals to be in a position to do this. So colonialism 
in Tobago became a question of wanton destruction. If Tobago could 
not be a colony of any one of the particular powers, then Tobago was 
to be a waste land. If one country could not have it, nobody else was 
to have it. The bankruptcy of colonialism reached its nadir in Tobago 


First, England. England's policy was stated quite bluntly: Tobago 
was to be a waste land, the property of the King of England, for the 
use of his subjects. The President and Council of Barbados so recom- 
mended in a communication to the Secretary of the Council of Trade 
and Plantations on August 14, 1673 as follows: 

'We presume that Island is so laid waste as will hinder all 
settlement there during this time of war, and if any nation shall 
presume there to make any small beginnings without His Majesty's 
commission we shall use our endeavours to destroy such beginning 
and thereby preserve it for His Majesty. In any other manner we 
are unable to keep it, for to leave a small garrison there had been 
to render them a prey to the Dutch and therewith lose His 
Majesty's title, and to place there such a garrison as should be able 
to hold it against the Dutch is more than we are able to maintain 
to keep it. Therefore as a waste belonging to His Majesty for the 
use of his subjects, we deem it the only way to have to preserve 
His Majesty's right thereto.' 

The French Government, quite naturally, refused to accept this 
statement of English policy. A great argument ensued at the end of 
the 17th century between Britain and France as to the ownership of 
Tobago. Britain refused to abandon its claim. But what was Britain 
claiming Tobago for? The Commissioners of Trade and Plantations 
wrote to the King on January 4, 1700 : 

'. . . the continuance of possession by Your Majesty is much 
more easily proved by the constant frequenting of that Island by 
Your Majesty's men of war and other ships of Your Majesty's 
subjects which resort there daily from Barbados and stay there 2 
or 3 months at a time or more to furnish themselves with wood 
and water and other necessaries in the said Island which depends 
absolutely on Your Majesty's government of Barbados as other 
Islands lying to the windward of Guadeloupe. 

'And in order to the further asserting of Your Majesty's right 
to Tobago exclusive of all others and to hinder the settlement of 
any colony there, pursuant to Your Majesty's intentions signified 
on that behalf, we are most humbly of the opinion that the 
Governor of Barbados for the time being should take care by Your 
Majesty's frigates or otherwise to hinder any settlement to be made 
upon that Island by any foreign nation whatsoever or even by Your 
Majesty's subjects otherwise than such Governor with the advice 
of Your Majesty's Council shall judge necessary for maintaining 
Your Majesty's sole rights to the said Island and in such manner 
as may be for the use and benefit to Your Majesty's subjects in- 
habiting Your Majesty's Island of Barbados.' 

The French put up counter arguments, based on their capture in 
676 from Holland. And what did France claim Tobago for? As a 
paste which no other nation was to be permitted to be developed. If 


Tobago was to be a waste land, the waste must be French. The French 
Ambassador in London wrote to the English Secretary of State on 
November 3, 1699, as follows: 

*When His Most Christian Majesty had decided to destroy the 
fortifications no one was left there to preserve his rights and his 
vessels had orders to go there twice yearly to prevent any other 
nation from taking possession contrary to his rights therein.' 
Spain, too, wanted to see Tobago as a waste land. Spain was 
particularly apprehensive about an Amerindian coalition between the 
Amerindians of Trinidad and the Amerindians of Tobago sponsored 
by the Dutch with designs on Spanish Trinidad. The Spanish Governor 
in Trinidad considered Trinidad most vulnerable to such attacks, 
especially on the northern coast, and particularly at Maracas. Thus, 
apart from concentrating on the destruction of the Amerindian settle- 
ments on the north coast of Trinidad around Point Galera, the 
Governor of Trinidad decided to attack Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago 
went to war. 

The Spanish Governor of Trinidad, showing an energy and a 
determination seldom equalled by his predecessors or his successors, 
took the field in person. The expedition left Trinidad in November, 
1636, and was able successfully to negotiate the difficult crossing from 
Trinidad to Tobago. The surprise attack on Tobago was successful. 
The Spaniards found in the fort a real international force - English- 
men, Dutchmen, Frenchmen, Flemings and African Negroes. The 
Dutch surrendered, and the Spaniards took away all ammunition and 
arms and set fire to all buildings and forts. Thus laden with their 
spoils and prisoners, with vessels designed to carry 25 men carrying 
more than 60, they encountered typical weather to the extent that 
their ships were nearly swamped. It is not difficult to appreciate today, 
when reading the Governor's account of the expedition, the joy with 
which he anchored at Monos on his return to Trinidad. 

The policy of the buccaneers from Jamaica was equally a policy 
of destruction. The Governor of Barbados, Lord Willoughby, en- 
countered them in Tobago in 1666. He described them in a letter to 
the British Secretary of State on January 29, 1666, as follows: 

'They are all masters and betake themselves to what course and 
which way they please, reckoning what they take, as well the Island 
as anything upon it, to be all their own and themselves free princes 
to dispose of it as they please . . . The Island was pretty well settled, 
having many good plantations upon it, well stocked with negroes 
and cattle and pretty good horses, but because my purse could not 
reach to purchase these of them, they did break up all things that 
were portable and untiled the houses; whereby they have left the 
Island in as bad a condition almost as it was at first settling, for 
hands being wanting, all the plantations must run to ruin, for indeed 
they have eaten up and destroyed all that they could not carry away, 
which hath been their custom in all places wherever they come.' 


The story became even more fantastic in 1749 when Britain and 
France, unable to agree on the ownership or disposition of Tobago, 
solemnly agreed that Tobago, together with St Lucia, St Vincent and 
Dominica, should be neutral islands and should be evacuated by the 
nationals of both countries. Tobago's neutrality, however, was of 
short duration as it again got caught up in the European struggles 
which only ended with the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. So Tobago 
continued to change hands and to change flags, and to live between 
England and Holland and France. 

No economic development of Tobago could be expected under such 
conditions. Tobago had no gold, and no one took seriously the report 
of Captain Pyntz in 1702 that he had secretly discovered rich mines 
and lapis lazuli as well as pearls and ambergris. Occasional efforts 
were made to recruit settlers, as for example, the prospectus for 
settlers in Tobago issued in England in 1686. Prospects were held out 
to the small man who had no more than a capital of 100 sterling. 
With a family, estimated at eleven all told, he could get a passage 
to Tobago for 50. Tools and implements and supplies for the first 
year would cost him 47 10s. With the remaining 2 10s. he could 
get a lease of 50 acres of land for 1,000 years, a shilling an acre a 
year. Within 12 months he could cultivate sufficient ground provisions 
and get two crops of tobacco. Assuming even a low yield of 8,000 
pounds, this, allowing merely one-eighth part of the price at which 
the Spaniards sold tobacco in Trinidad, would bring him 100 
sterling; so that he would recover his outlay in the first year and pro- 
ceed to buy slaves with which he could keep on doubling his income 
year after year, until at the end of the seventh year's crop he could 
expect by a modest computation to clear from the 50 acres of land 
at least 5,000 sterling. This was too good to be true, and of course no 
one took it seriously. 

In so far as the British Government envisaged any economic policy 
for Tobago, that policy emphasises one of the principal considera- 
tions which faced all the European countries. The West Indian scene 
was a scene of rivalry not only among the European metropolitan 
countries, but also among the planters of the various islands. Each one 
was jealous of the other, and the British policy to Tobago of leaving 
it a waste was due very largely to the fact that the planters of Bar- 
bados saw in Tobago a possible rival. When in 1721 the British 
Government did work out some sort of a policy to Tobago, that policy, 
as stated in royal instructions to the Governor of Barbados, emphati- 
cally stipulated that Tobago was not to rival Barbados. 

It was the same old story of one colony seeking to profit at the ex- 
pense of others, sometimes within the same national jurisdiction, and 
it is to this long tradition more than anything else that is to be 
attributed this jealousy of West Indian islands one for the other even 
today which has astonished foreign observers and exasperates West 
Indian planners. 

The principle explicitly laid down for new settlers was that they 


should not plant sugar. They were to grow instead cocoa, annato and 
indigo. Large scale enterprise was restricted; no grant was to exceed 
$00 acres and none was to be less than IS acres. Every person who 
received a grant of land was to be obliged to cultivate one acre out 
Df every 50, that is to say, 2 per cent of the acreage, every year from 
fte date of the grant. Such person was further obliged to maintain 
:or every forty acres one white man or two white women within a 
fear after the date of his grant, and one white man and two white 
tfomen for every twenty acres three years after the date of his grant. 
Finally, no grants were to be made to any planter who had land in 
Barbados or in any other of the British islands in the West Indies. 

As in Trinidad, so in Tobago, the first real stimulus to economic 
development came from the French. But whereas in Trinidad this 
,ook place through French immigration under the Spanish flag, in 
Tobago it was the result of the French capture of the island from the 
British in 1781. 

The French, it is true, were determined to maintain the Exclusive 
iust as much as the Spaniards. In 1783 the Council and Assembly of 
Tobago petitioned the King of France to declare the island of Tobago 
i free port, unlimited and unrestrained in its import and export trade 
for such period as the King might approve. The Minister of Colonies 
in France, Marshal de Castries, curtly advised the Administrators of 
Tobago in 1785 that the policy of the French Government in respect 
Df commerce must be maintained in Tobago. 

It is true also that the French seem to have impressed on the 
inhabitants of Tobago for the first time the importance of local taxes 
'in economic development. A new note was struck in colonial history 
#hen the Minister of the Colonies informed the Governor of Tobago 
is follows: 

'As regards the finances of Tobago, a balanced budget is neces- 
sary and revenue and expenditure must be made to equate. The 
large deficits of the past few years must cease.' 

As a result the Assembly found itself faced with raising the sum 
of 200,000 livres. It imposed a poll tax of 22 livres 10 sols on every 
slave between the ages of 14 and 60, and in order to obtain an equit- 
able contribution from merchants, artisans and others, and not allow 
the planters to bear the entire burden of taxation, an additional tax 
Df 8 per cent on the capital value was levied on all buildings in Scar- 
borough, Plymouth and Georgetown. This was in 1786 and was 
followed in 1788 by another tax bill to raise 240,000 livres. 

This was organised as follows: 

12 livres per Quintal of cotton = 177,237 livres 

2 livres 10 sols per Quintal of 

clayed sugar = 6,585 livres 

1 livre 13 sols per Quintal of 

muscovado sugar = 40,021 livres 


15 livres per Boucaud of rum = 26,055 livres 

10 sols per Pound of indigo = 2,500 livres 

6 % on the profits from jobbing Negroes = 4,500 livres 

50 livres a head on Town Negroes = 25,000 livres 

6 % on the rent of houses = 10,800 livres 

While the Spanish Government in Trinidad was offering liberal 
incentives for the economic development of Trinidad, the French 
Government in Tobago was holding out parallel incentives for the 
economic development of Tobago. The Tobago Legislature passed an 
Act to the effect that, from January 1, 1787, any person who estab- 
lished in uncultivated lands a plantation of sugar or cotton or indigo 
or coffee or cocoa would be exempt from all taxes on lands, slaves or 
produce, for six years from the beginning of the cultivation in the 
case of sugar or coffee, for three years in the case of cotton and indigo, 
and for eight years in the case of cocoa. 

The Governor of Tobago went further and recommended to the 
Minister of Colonies in France that 'money bribes' should be offered 
to persuade 4,000 French artisans, free people of colour, to leave 
Trinidad and migrate to Tobago. Poor Trinidad. It was able to take 
the first halting steps to development by offering encouragement to 
French people to migrate to Trinidad, many of them people of colour. 
Now the French territory of Tobago was advancing the view that 
French settlers should be bribed to migrate to a French territory and 
not to a Spanish territory. This was merely another variation of the 
old West Indian story of robbing Peter to pay Paul. 

The Assembly of Tobago crowned the list of incentives during the 
French regime by passing in 1788 a bill to give every father of 
a family a tax allowance of 5 per cent for each living child under the 
age of 14. 

The metropolitan country itself offered incentives to development. 
The Governor was advised by the Minister of Colonies in 1786 that 
'it is the desire of the Government to do all that is possible to help 
the people and to assist the agriculture and commerce of Tobago.' 
In accordance with this pledge the French Government in 1786 
reduced the duty on imported slaves from 100 livres a head to 6 livres. 
The French Government was so impressed with the potential of 
Tobago that it endeavoured to encourage migration from other West 
Indian territories, principally Grenada, in much the same way as 
Roume de Saint Laurent had urged the Spanish Government in Trini- 
dad to attract French settlers from Grenada and other West Indian 
Islands. And as a further concession to colonial interests, the French 
Government in 1788 was pleased to decree that a colonial assembly, 
similar to that in other French West Indian islands, should be estab- 
lished in Tobago. The Assembly was to consist of the Governor, the 
Treasurer, the Commandant, two elected deputies from each parish 
except the sparsely populated parishes of St John and St Louis which 
were to have one each, and two elected deputies from the town of 


Scarborough which, as indicated above, the French had renamed 
Port Louis. 

Under these incentives Tobago, in French hands, was able to make 
the first tentative steps forward. Whilst in British hands after 1763, 
no one apparently had wanted to leave Grenada and migrate to 
Tobago. The Governor of Barbados reported in 1764 the universal 
determination of both rich and poor in Grenada against settling 
Tobago. This reads curiously today, not only because it must be the 
first and only time that people did not want to leave Grenada to come 
to Trinidad and Tobago, but also because the alleged reason was that 
Tobago, today well known as a healthy resort, was then regarded as 
being particularly unhealthy. The British hope that the lower orders 
of people in Barbados, who were numerous and for the most part un- 
employed, would find settlement in Tobago attractive seemed to have 
had no greater success, despite the action of the Governor of Barbados 
in changing the name of the Bay formerly called Gros Cochon to Bar- 
bados Bay. In 1768, under British rule, the majority of landowners 
in Tobago were absentees. Out of a total of 77, twenty were residents 
of Tobago. The distribution by other countries was as follows: 
Grenada, 28; St Vincent, 5; Dominica, 3; Barbados, 9; Antigua, 2; 
St Kitts, 3; Great Britain, 6; and Surinam, 1. 

The effects of France's policy are reflected in various statistics of 
population and production available for Tobago in the twenty years 
between 1771 and 1790. In 1771 the population was 5,084. In 1791 it 
was 15,020. The number of white men in 1771 was 243; no figures are 
given for white women, and one is free to draw any conclusion from 
that. The number of whites had increased by 1790 to 541, of whom 
434 were men, and thereby hangs a tale, the tale of West Indian social 
development. The 1771 census gives no indication of free people of 
colour. By 1790, 303 were identified, of whom 198 were women, the 
other part of the tale of West Indian social development. 

The slave population in 1771 numbered 4,716, and in addition 125 
were listed as runaways. By 1790 the slave population had increased 
to 14,170. For every slave in 1771 there were three in 1790. Between 
1773 and 1780 the slave population increased by nearly one-half. 
Between 1782 and 1785 the increase was nearly 10 per cent; between 
1785 and 1787, about 15 per cent; between 1787 and 1790, about 12 
per cent. The slave population in Tobago tended to show a smaller 
disproportion between the sexes than many other slave colonies. In 
1790 there were 7,548 male slaves and 6,522 female slaves. But "the 
unwritten law of slavery was very much at work. Slave births 
amounted to 318 and slave deaths to 645. The excess of deaths over 
births was just over 2 per cent of the slave population in that year. 

Thus Tobago in 1790 was essentiaUy an African population and 
fundamentally a slave society. Out of every 100 people in the com- 
munity, 94 were African slaves. A further two had a large admixture 
of African blood, though they were free. In Tobago, the former 
Amerindian island, the Amerindian had become a rarity. The 1786 

census identified 24 people who were listed as Caribs at Man of War 
Bay. The 1790 census identified five Caribs in Little Tobago, from 
which apparently they were soon to be excluded by the Birds of Para- 
dise imported from New Guinea. 

In this development of Tobago under the French, sugar was king. 
The very island whose sugar development Britain had sought to re- 
strain in 1720 as a potential sugar rival of Barbados, became in 1770, 
when the first shipment of sugar was made from the island, a country 
which, it was predicted, would in a few years make at least as much 
sugar as any of the Leeward Islands. The nutmeg was discovered in 
abundance in 1768 and 40 plantations were immediately started. 
Cotton and indigo and ginger also received attention. But sugar be- 
came, as it had become or was to become in one West Indian island 
after another, the principal object of attention. The British Governor 
wrote to the Secretary of State in 1796 when Tobago had again 
changed hands: 

'With respect to the cultivation of the arrowroot which Your 
Grace desires may be recommended to the Legislature, I have the 
honour to inform you that the curing of a piece of land, not par- 
ticularly fertile but planted in Bourbon canes, sold here a short 
while ago for 70 sterling an acre (near double the worth of the 

This circumstance will enable Your Grace to judge how impos- 
sible it will be to turn the attention of the planters from so profitable 
a production as that of the Bourbon or Otaheite cane.' 

In 1790 Tobago produced 2,401,639 pounds of sugar, just under 
1,100 tons, a little less than' double the production of 1786, but 
apparently just over 60 per cent of the 1780 production of 3,934,830 
pounds. Cotton production in 1790 amounted to 1,374,336 pounds, 
approximately the average of the years 1780 to 1788. Indigo and 
ginger disappeared from the statistics after attaining a production of 
20,580 pounds in 1780 and 10,300 pounds in 1782, respectively. In 
1790 of the land in cultivation 4,878 acres were in sugar, 14,436 in 
cotton, 134 in coffee, 2 in cocoa, 4,842 in ground provisions, and 5,356 
in pastures. Tobago had 37 sugar factories in operation (the 1787 
census indicated an additional 38 in ruins), 99 cotton factories (as 
against 114 in 1787) and 4 coffee factories (as against one in 1787). 
Indigo, of which there were 55 acres in cultivation in 1787 with 8 
factories, had disappeared. Tobago's reputation for the rearing of 
pigs and sheep and goats seems already to have been well established. 
In 1790 there were 3,030 sheep and goats and 441 pigs, as well as 291 
horses and 524 mules. 

The basis of this economic development was slave labour. A slave 
society lived on a volcano; or to use Chacon's words in Trinidad 
disorder was one of the most terrible features in colonies where 
slavery was the basis of agriculture. So it was in Tobago, as the slave 
uprising in 1770 and the disturbances in 1798 demonstrated. As a 


result of the latter, the Council of Tobago called on the Governor to 
have all the houses not inhabited by whites, and particularly houses 
in Scarborough inhabited by French people of colour, searched for 
firearms and offensive weapons, and also to prevent all drumming or 
illegal meetings of Negroes in Scarborough. 

This, however, must not detract from the importance of one feature 
of slavery in Tobago which deserves special mention. The history 
of West Indian slavery in general demonstrates that reforms such 
as they were, came from outside of the islands, from the metropolitan 
countries, or from metropolitan clergymen stationed in the island. 
This was true of almost every West Indian territory, except the Spanish 
colonies of Cuba and Puerto Rico where a really large Spanish popula- 
tion had settled and become acclimatized. For the most part small 
farmers, growing food crops in Puerto Rico or tobacco in Cuba, 
they were opposed to slavery. Puerto Rico and Cuba were unique 
in this demand for emancipation from the colonies themselves, by 
Puerto Rican spokesmen in Spain and revolutionaries in Cuba, in 
both cases in the face of the pronounced hostility of the metropolitan 

A report in 1798 of a Committee of both Houses of the Legislature 
in Tobago appointed to consider the state of the slaves in Tobago and 
possible measures of ameliorating their condition, stands out as a 
landmark in the history of all the slave colonies that ultimately formed 
part of the British West Indies. 

The first question to which the Committee of the Tobago Legisla- 
ture addressed itself was the causes which had retarded the natural 
increase of the slaves. In their proposals the Committee recommended 
the fixing by law of the commodities and quantities which should 
be provided for the slaves: 3 Ibs of salted pork or 4 Ibs of salted beef 
or 4 Ibs of salted fish or 14 good herrings per week for each working 
slave and pro rata for children of different ages; 7 quarts weekly of 
wheat flour or oatmeal or ground provisions such as Indian corn, peas, 
plantains, yams, potatoes, eddoes for each working slave and pro rata 
for children of different ages; for men a cloth jacket, hat, frock and 
a pair of trousers in June and another frock and pair of trousers in 
December; for women a cloth jacket, hat and coarse handkerchief, 
a petticoat and a wrapper in June and another petticoat and wrapper 
in December. 

The Committee further proposed -a revolutionary proposal for 
islands which crudely and contemptuously took the view that it was 
cheaper to buy slaves than to breed them -a duty on all imported 
slaves above 25 years of age together with a premium on all female 
Negroes imported between the ages of 8 and 20, in order to encourage 
the development of a creole population. The Committee was fully 
aware of the revolutionary nature of this proposal, for it reported: 

'This measure appears to Your Committee of the highest im- 
portance at this moment when Legislatures in the West Indies seem 


determined to attempt the instruction and civilisation of the 
Negroes. Young Africans may be civilised, but old men and women 
cannot be expected to forget their country or language, and with 
them are likely to retain their barbarous habits and customs.' 

The Committe further proposed, in its consideration of this ques- 
tion of slave mortality, the erection of a comfortable house on each 
estate with a boarded platform for the accommodation of slaves, and 
the appointment of a proper person to inspect their clothing daily and 
to prevent them from disposing of it for rum or tobacco. 

The Committee attributed the principal reason for the failure of 
the slave population to increase by natural means to the incidence of 
absenteeism among proprietors in the island. They recognised that 
this was a familiar phenomenon all over the West Indies. But they 
could do no better than to propose for Tobago a pale imitation of the 
so-called deficiency laws which had been tried in other islands in the 
West Indies and particularly in Jamaica for a hundred years before 
the Tobago proposal That was the imposition of a tax on all 
absentee landowners the proceeds of which were to be utilised 
for the encouragement of humanity and the care of the Negro 

Turning its attention to the question of Negro children when born, 
the Committee of the Tobago Legislature recommended that slave 
mothers should be prevented by law from carrying their young child- 
ren into the fields, and to implement this, the law should oblige every 
estate to establish a nursery for the care of young children. 

Concentrating on its main objective, that of establishing a settled 
and contented creole slave population, the Committee recommended, 
as a measure designed to instil in the slaves habits of industry and to 
inspire them with a desire for property, the distribution of a sufficient 
quantity of good land to the slaves and the provision by law of a suffi- 
cient period of time to them for the cultivation of this land. 

A second important question to which the Committee turned its 
attention after its consideration of the causes retarding the natural 
increase of the slave population, was that of family planning, the 
emphasis now being on increase and not decrease of the size of fami- 
lies. The Committee recommended, as an incentive to matrimony 
among the slaves, the erection of a comfortable house at the expense 
of the slave owner for a young woman upon her marriage, a gift of 
livestock the value of some $16 or $20, and clothing of superior 
quality. Over and above the Tobago custom of slave owners giving 
presents to young children and to midwives at Christmas time, the 
Committee recommended that a law should be passed entitling a mid- 
wife to a fee of one dollar from the proprietor for every child that she 
should bring into the world. And to protect the health of mothers the 
Committee recommended that it should be prescribed by law that no 
woman should be required to work for at least five weeks after the 
birth of her child, and even then work was to be permitted only on the 


basis of a certificate from the surgeon that mother and child were 

To encourage and promote further the breeding and rearing of 
children, the Committee expressed the view that it might be advisable 
to grant total exemption from labour to all mothers of six children 
and upwards, of whom six were alive, and that to the six persons in 
charge of the plantations which registered the greatest natural increase 
in their population for the preceding year, premiums should be paid 
from the Public Treasury, varying from 100 for the highest numbers 
to 50 for the overseer on the plantation which was sixth in order of 

Turning its attention to another question, the Committee of the 
Tobago Legislature recommended immediate measures to provide for 
such number of missionaries as the Legislature might judge necessary 
for instilling into the minds of the slaves the principles of religion and 

The Committee finally recommended the appointment of two or 
three Guardians of the Rights of Negroes in every parish of the island 
to take cognisance of all complaints and ill-treatment made to them 
by the slaves, and with authority to summon such slaves before them 
for the elucidation of the complaint as well as such white men as they 
might consider necessary, in order either to redress the real grievances 
of the Negroes or to order that they be punished for making ground- 
less complaints. Not many West Indian territories could have boasted 
at this time of their readiness to recognise the right of the slave against 
his owner or to receive complaints from him, or to admit that in cer- 
tain cases the testimony of slaves might be received against white 

Few of the slave codes of the West Indian territories at the end 
of the 18th century could claim to be superior to the ideas recom- 
mended by the Committee of the Tobago Legislature. It is not at all 
unlikely that we must see in this attitude of the Tobago plantocracy, 
as in the regulations of Chacon in Trinidad already referred to (not 
forgetting the limited number of slaves in both islands), one of the 
principle reasons for the comparative harmony or lack of serious 
revolts in the history of Negro slavery in Trinidad and in Tobago as 
compared with the history of other West Indian territories - for 
example, the great slave revolt in Haiti in 1793, the slave revolt in 
1823 in British Guiana, the state of permanent slave revolution in 
which Barbados found itself in the two decades before emancipation 
and so on. 

This, then, was Tobago under French rule before its final acquisi- 
tion by Great Britain in 1802, confirmed and ratified in 1814, put an 
end to the changing of flags in Tobago. The changes of flags did not 
bother the planters to any great extent; they became a part of the 
routine of existence. When Great Britain captured the island in 1793, 
the Assembly of Tobago passed a resolution typical of West Indian 
society of the day, thanking Major General Cuyler for the service 


rendered to his country and to Tobago, and voted him a sword to 
the value of 100 guineas. This was on February 19, 1794 and was in- 
spired no doubt by the British element in the island. But before this, 
on April 16, 1791, the members of the Assembly of Tobago, some of 
them emphatically British, and no doubt inspired by the French 
Revolution, sent an address to the Governor-General of Martinique 
praising him in the highest terms for his energy and persistence against 
the enemy and expressing the hope that in preserving Martinique as 
a French possession, he would receive from the representatives of the 
Nation and from the King of France those evidences of satisfaction 
which his conduct and qualities merited. 

Thus it was that Tobago's history in this period of changing flags 
and varying allegiances could be brought to an end with the strangest 
episode of all, Tobago's tribute to the dictator of France, Napoleon 
Bonaparte, and its endorsement of his action in making himself First 
Consul for life. The whole history of the West Indies reveals the 
curious ability of the West Indian planter to accommodate himself to 
another flag and to switch loyalties as well. The French planters in 
Saint Domingue in 1791 negotiated treacherously with Britain against 
France on condition that slavery was maintained. The Jamaican 
planters in 1832 negotiated treacherously with slave owners in the 
United States of America with a view to becoming an American satel- 
lite on condition that slavery was maintained. The Barbadian planters 
in 1885 long after the abolition of slavery, negotiated with Canada 
for entry into the Canadian Confederation as a counter attack against 
British designs to establish some sort of federation in the West Indies. 
The address by the Legislative Council of Tobago to Bonaparte on 
November 25, 1802 is the most curious illustration of this facility. 
This important document in the history of the people of Tobago reads 
as follows: 

'First Consul. 

The members of the Council and Assembly of the Island of 
Tobago beg leave to express these sentiments of loyalty and fidelity 
to the French Republic and of gratitude to you for the many marks 
of paternal solicitude you have condescended to show for the 
welfare of this Colony, and that at a time when your thoughts must 
have been employed in deciding the fate of Europe and arranging 
the weighty concerns of nations. 

'On this occasion, words fail us to convey an adequate idea of 
our sentiments. To no man recorded in ancient or modern history 
is the character of being an accomplished Hero and consummate 
Statesman so appropriate and so justly applicable as to you; we 
therefore see with joy and satisfaction that you have justified the 
wish of the French Nation in consenting to be First Consul for life. 

'The inhabitants of this Colony had it not in their power to give 
their suffrages on this occasion, but they unanimously concur 
therein as being a measure necessary to give the Government their 


stability, which must discourage its enemies, establish credit within 
and confidence without, and which cannot fail to raise the nation 
to the highest pitch of happiness and glory . . * in which they, being 
now firmly united to France, expect to participate. 

'First Consul, we entreat you to believe that the minds of the 
inhabitants of this Colony are, in a particular manner, impressed 
with sentiments of gratitude for the intentions you have shown to 
their known interests and means of promoting the prosperity of 
the Colony by granting to them the enjoyment of their laws and 
internal legislation, for which the inhabitants of Tobago may, from 
education and habit, be pardoned for having a partiality and which 
may, on that account, be better suited to their character and 

'And we do humbly hope that our loyalty and fidelity to the 
Republic and our obedient and respectful attachment to you may 
induce you to continue to these people whom you have reunited to 
the Empire ... an institution which they feel essential to their 

'Could anything add to the sentiments which we have faintly 
expressed, it would be the proof you have lately afforded of the 
interest you have in our gratification by extending the benefits of 
your protection and patronage to our posterity, in the way in which 
you have honoured our children in the National Printannee where 
they will be taught to realise the virtues of the regeneration of 
France, to comprehend the value of such a Benefactor, and to per- 
petuate the sentiments of their Fathers by their gratitude and by 
their emulation to render themselves worthy of such a Protector. 

'We salute you with respect.' 

Thus in 1802, as Bonaparte stood poised, ready to launch his attack 
for world domination which was to plunge the whole world into a 
further twelve years of war that ended only with the Battle of Water- 
loo, Bonaparte could proceed with absolute confidence. Tobago had 
advised him, if we may parody a famous West Indian joke at the 
expense of Barbados, 'go ahead, Bonaparte, Tobago is behind you.' 


Trinidad as a Model British 
Slave Colony 

Having annexed Trinidad from Spain, Britain had now to decide what 
to do with the island. 

Trinidad, as we have seen, had a total population in 1797 of 17,643 
of which 10,009 were Negro slaves. Had Britain annexed Trinidad 
fifty years or twenty-five years or even ten years before 1797, there 
would have been no decision to make. Britain and France had been 
competing for a hundred years for supremacy in the world sugar 
market. The struggle had steadily shifted in favour of France until 
by 1789, when the Privy Council of England appointed a special com- 
mittee to study the whole question of the British colonies in relation 
to their rivals, the French colony of Saint Domingue was generally 
regarded as superior in value to all the British West Indian colonies 
combined. French costs of production were lower than British costs 
of production, and the French were steadily driving the British out of 
the world sugar market. The acquisition of so valuable a territory as 
Trinidad, with its sugar potential, would have been followed, even in 
1787, by an enormous influx of African slaves for the increase of 
sugar production. 

In 1797 it was a different story. The British Parliament and people 
had been aroused by Clarkson outside of Parliament and Wilberforce 
inside to the unprofitability of slavery, to the injustice and inhumanity 
of the slave system, and to the impolicy of the slave trade. Parliament 
had committed itself in principle to gradual abolition of the slave 
trade; British capitalism, getting ready for the enormous leap for- 
ward it would make early in the 19th century, had begun to realise 
that apart from certain special vested interests the main centre of 
which was Liverpool, the slave trade and slavery had served their 
purpose, were no longer essential to the accumulation of capital, and 
no longer provided a most important and lucrative market to British 
industry which at that time had no equal anywhere in the world. 

These general considerations -the acceptance in principle of 
gradual abolition of the slave trade, the mass crusade against slavery, 
and the capitalist independence of the slave market - were reinforced 
by two other considerations of great importance. The first was the 
lesson of the slave revolution in Haiti and the growing recognition 
of the danger of servile revolt. The second was the recognition by 
the British West Indian planters themselves, in the older islands of 
Jamaica, Barbados Antigua, St Kitts and others, that they could not 
possibly compete in the British market against the-virgin soils of Trini- 
dad. In their own self-interest, therefore, they were prepared to 



demand that, whilst the slave trade should be allowed to continue to 
the older islands, it should be decisively prohibited in Trinidad and in 
their other rival, British Guiana, 

The West Indian planters of the older islands concentrated upon 
this argument. It was only a part of their general philosophy that was 
almost a hundred years old. It will be recalled how Barbadian planters 
had effectively stepped in to restrain the development of sugar 
cultivation in Tobago. The established British 'West Indian planters 
in Barbados and Jamaica had constantly opposed throughout the 
18th century British annexations in the West Indies. It was pressure 
from them that led the British Government in 1763 to return Cuba 
to the Spaniards and take Florida instead. It was pressure from them 
that led the British Government in the same year 1763 to restore 
Guadeloupe to France and annex Canada instead. It was this same 
West Indian pressure which explained the restoration in time of peace 
of sugar islands like Tobago or Grenada or St Lucia captured by the 
British in time of war. 

Whether the self-interest of the older West Indian planters would 
have prevailed even in 1797 if it had not been for the general recogni- 
tion by capitalists and humanitarians in Britain that slavery was on 
its last legs is a point on which one can only speculate. It is certain 
that, West Indian vested interests apart, there was a general refusal 
in Britain, in the light of the decision in principle to work towards 
the gradual abolition of the slave trade, to accept any plan for the 
economic development of Trinidad which, if its basis was to be Negro 
slavery, would necessarily involve, as the British spokesman said in 
the House of Lords in 1807 in sponsoring the Bill for the abolition of 
the slave trade, the continuation of the slave trade for two or three 
centuries longer in order to bring the whole of Trinidad under culti- 
vation. This argument was the principal submission of George Can- 
ning, the future Prime Minister, in the House of Commons debate on 
his motion respecting Trinidad in 1802. Canning said: 

'If the whole Island was to be, at once, brought into cultivation 
by newly imported Negroes, it would produce an extension of the 
Slave Trade, to a degree which must appal the feelings of every 
Member of that House. 

'Only one twenty-fifth of the Island was now in cultivation and 
10,000 Negroes were there already; to cultivate the whole would 
require 250,000 at a moderate calculation. Jamaica contained as 
many in 1791 and yet the number of acres fit for sugar were less 
than in Trinidad. Jamaica had been nearly a century and a half 
arriving at its present state of cultivation, and was in 1763 in nearly 
the same state as Trinidad at present. Above 800,000 Negroes had 
been imported into Jamaica during that time; and if there was a 
question of suddenly cultivating such an Island as Trinidad, we 
must make up our minds to the destruction of about a million of 
the human species.' 


Britain therefore had given its first answer to the question of what 
to do with Trinidad. Trinidad's population was not to be supplemented 
by Negro slaves from Africa. 

The general question raised a further consideration: What sort of 
government was Trinidad under British rule to enjoy? 

Fifty years before 1797 there would have been no difficulty either 
in answering the question. Britain could quite easily have decided 
to follow the traditional pattern in the West Indies and establish, as 
in Jamaica and Barbados, the system which, in a sort of a way imitat- 
ing the British Constitution, would have produced a Legislature of 
two Houses, the lower one elected, with a Governor, representing the 
Sovereign, working more or less in harmony with the elected repre- 
sentatives of the people. 

In 1797, however, the British rejected this solution for two reasons. 

The first related to the general question of slavery and the posi- 
tion of the slave population in a territory governed by an Assembly 
controlled by white planters and white slave owners. As was to be 
stated in later years by the Principal Under Secretary in the Colonial 
Office, James Stephen, himself an abolitionist and a man of pro- 
nounced liberal views, 'popular franchises in the hands of the Masters 
of a great body of Slaves were the worst instruments of tyranny which 
were ever yet forged for the oppression of mankind.' The point of 
view of the British Government was that later expressed on January 
30, 1832, in a despatch from Lord Goderich to the Governor of 

Theirs is a society in which the great mass of the people to be 
governed are slaves, and their proposal is that the laws should be 
made by a body composed of and elected by slave proprietors. 
Bringing this plan to the test of those general principles ... it is 
to be inquired how such a scheme would provide for that identity 
of interest which they rightly think ought to subsist between the 
legislator and the subject . . . Society in Trinidad is divided into 
castes as strongly marked as those of Hindustan, nor can any man 
who has but an ordinary knowledge of the history and general 
character of mankind doubt what must be the effect of such dis- 
tinctions when, in addition to their other privileges, the superior 
race are entrusted with a legislative authority over the inferior.* 

There was a further consideration which was uppermost in the 
minds of the British authorities. That was the nature of the Trinidad 
population inherited with annexation of the island. Chacon, with 
Spanish colonialism on its death bed, had emphasised in 1796 the dis- 
unity in the country which he attributed to the mixture of nationalities 
and races and colours. The census of 1808 illustrates the mixture. 
In a total of 31,478 persons, there were 2,476 whites, of whom less 
than half were British, nearly one-third French, and nearly one-fifth 
Spaniards. The figures were: British, 1147; French, 781; Spanish, 
459; Corsican, 36; German, 29; and others, 24. The free people of 


colour, in Chacon's day overwhelmingly French in sympathy and in 
politics, numbered 5,450, more than double the whites. These were 
divided almost equally between British, French and Spanish, The 
population included 22 Chinese, 1,635 Amerindians, and 21,895 slaves. 
Thus the representative principle of self-government in Trinidad 
would have meant not only entrusting a local legislature with 
jurisdiction over the slaves, but the domination of the local legis- 
lature itself by non-British elements, and would have raised what 
was in the West Indies at the time the grave question of the position 
of the free people of colour, some of whom were themselves 

This, then, is how the British Government saw the political problem 
of Trinidad, and how it reacted to the first attempt for constitution 
reform in Trinidad. On the one hand, slave owners would seek, in 
Trinidad as elsewhere, to nullify and oppose any British measures 
relating to slavery. On the other hand, a self-governing legislature 
would be dominated by Frenchmen and Spaniards, and the British 
element would be in the minority. 

The planters naturally thought otherwise. A petition was sent by 
the Cabildo of Trinidad to the King of England on December 14, 
1801. It carried the following signatures: Begorrat, Farfan, de Gour- 
ville, Langton, Portel, de Castro, Indave, Bontur, Alcala. 

Claiming as its precedents the continuation of existing laws when 
Tobago was ceded to France in 1783 and Canada to Britain in 1763, 
the Cabildo requested the provisional continuation of Spanish laws 
and the Spanish religion in Trinidad until an Assembly could be 
selected by representatives chosen by the free suffrage of the 23 
parishes in the island and the eight districts of the town of Port-of- 

The Cabildo's petition was followed in the next year by an address 
to the King of England by the principal inhabitants of the island, in 
which they petitioned for a free representation in the House of 
Assembly and trial by jury. Eight years later, on August 10, 1810, 
the planters who had been living in the island at the time of its 
annexation in 1797 again requested some form of elective system, 
proposing, as a qualification for electors, habitual residence in their 
district for at least two years and ownership of a property cultivated 
by at least ten slaves, and for representatives, ownership for over two 
years of an estate cultivated by at least thirty slaves on which they 
had habitually resided. 

The British abolitionists viewed these demands from the planters 
in Trinidad with considerable apprehension. A debate took place in 
the House of Commons in 1811 on the administration of justice in 
Trinidad. Lord Brougham condemned the planters' demand for trial 
by jury as calculated to involve a mockery of justice, by placing its 
British principle 'into the hands of men who had left every humane 
principle of Englishmen behind them*. Supporting his arguments by 
precedents taken from Barbados, Brougham concluded: 


The Trial by Jury was only good where there was such a popula- 
tion that a fair jury could be selected from it; but to give the 500 
whites of Trinidad the complete dominion over all the lives and 
properties in the Island, would be highly detrimental to the course 
of Justice.' 

The first Governor of Trinidad, Colonel Thomas Picton, opposed 
all these demands from the planters. In a letter to the Secretary of 
State on June 28, 1802, he advised against any concessions in respect 
of elections and recommended a solution to the British Government. 
Picton wrote: 

'Popular Elective Assemblies have been productive of much 
ruinous consequences in some of the neighbouring Islands where 
the elements of society are too different to admit a similar com- 
position to those of the Mother Country. 

'An Elective Assembly will unavoidably introduce a question 
which cannot fail to generate the seeds of lasting fermentation, in 
a country composed of such combustible material. 

'One of the objects, first and most important to determine, will 
be the right of voting, and it may be thought expedient, as in the 
old Islands, to exclude the Free People of Colour; here by far the 
most numerous class in the Colony and of whom many possess con- 
siderable property. 

This distinction will render them at all times dissatisfied with 
the situation and liable to be affected in their loyalty by every pros- 
pect of change or amelioration. Of two things one will necessarily 
happen, they must be either formally rejected, or openly acknow- 
ledged. Disaffection is the natural consequence of the former; 
the latter may have an iU effect in its consequences on the same 
class in the neighbouring islands. 

'Leaving a Popular Elective Assembly out of the question, the 
difficulty disappears. There will be no necessity of any legal 
humiliating distinction. Equal laws and severe police will secure 
good order and a permanent foundation.* 

The British Government decided that Trinidad was not to have a 
self-governing constitution like Jamaica or Barbados. Instead it was 
to be a Crown Colony, with all essential powers reserved to the British 
Government through the Governor. As the policy decided on by the 
British Government was to remain, with some modification in 1831 
in respect of the establishment of a Legislature, substantially 
unchanged until 1925, the British Government's decision, in the form 
of a despatch from the Secretary of State, Lord Liverpool, to the 
Governor of Trinidad on November 27, 1810, is reproduced almost in 
its entirety: 

The application of the proprietors, white inhabitants of Trinidad, 
may be divided into two; the British Constitution as it is under- 
stood and supposed to be enjoyed by the other West India islands- 


the British laws under whatever frame of Government His Majesty 
may be pleased to establish in that Colony. 

'With respect to the first of these points, it has undergone the 
most deliberate consideration in all its different bearings. The ques- 
tion proposed for discussion has no necessary reference to that 
state of things which has existed for so many years in the old West 
India Islands but may be stated to amount to this: whether in 
a new colony in which the rights of the Crown and Parliament 
must be admitted on all hands to be entire, it would be advisable 
to surrender these rights in whole or in part and to establish 
a system of government analogous to that of the other West India 

'Even if the circumstances of Trinidad were in all respects much 
more nearly the same as those of the other West India Colonies 
than they unquestionably are, the determination of Government 
would probably be to negative such a proposition. But it so happens 
that the circumstances of the Island of Trinidad are in many 
respects so materially different from those of all the West India 
Colonies that supposing the system of Government established in 
those Islands to be the best could be afforded them in their 
situation, it would not follow that the same system could be rendered 
applicable either in justice or in policy to the Island of Trinidad. 

*In all the other West India Islands (with the exception of 
Dominica, an exception which arises out of recent circumstances) 
the white inhabitants form the great majority of the free people 
of the Colony and the political rights and privileges of all descrip- 
tions have been enjoyed exclusively by them. 

'The class of free people of colour in these Colonies, as far as 
even their numbers extend, has grown up gradually. They have 
thereby in some degree been reconciled to the middle situation 
which they occupy between the whites and the slaves. But in the 
Island of Trinidad the free people of colour at this time form a 
very great majority of the free inhabitants of the Island and the 
question would arise according to the proposed system whether in 
establishing, for the first time, a popular government in that Colony, 
we shall exclude that class of people from all political rights and 
privileges. Such an exclusion we know would be regarded by them 
as a grievance and it may be doubted how far it would be consistent 
with the spirit of the capitulation by which their privileges were to 
be secured and their situation certainly not deteriorated from that 
which they enjoyed under the Spanish Government. 

'In the second place in most of the West India Islands, the great 
body of the proprietors and white inhabitants are British or 
descendants of British families to whom the British Constitution 
and the Laws have become familiar; they have been educated or 
supposed themselves to be educated in the knowledge of them and 
though the resemblance is certainly not great between the Con- 
stitution as it is supposed to exist in our West India Islands and as 


it is enjoyed in Great Britain, the circumstances above referred to 
would in some degree account for the attachment of the inhabitants 
of the old West India Islands to a system of government in which 
popular assembly forms a material part. 

'But in the Island of Trinidad, the white population consist of a 
mixture of people of all nations. The greater part of them must be 
wholly ignorant of the British Constitution and unaccustomed to 
any frame of government which bears any analogy to it. In the case 
of Trinidad therefore, amongst the most numerous class of white 
inhabitants, there can be no material prejudice either of habit or 
education in favour of such a system and the partial and exclusive 
principle on which it is proposed by the white inhabitants to be 
founded, whereby the largest proportion of the free inhabitants of 
the Island would be excluded from all participation in its privileges, 
appears to defeat the object of it and to constitute in point of 
justice and upon the very principles of the system itself, a decided 
and insuperable objection against it. 

The question has hitherto been considered as far as it may affect 
the internal state of the Colony itself. But in addition to these con- 
siderations it is material to add that the abolition of the Slave Trade 
by Parliament imposes upon Government the necessity of keeping 
within themselves any power which may be material for rendering 
this measure effectual. 

'It is essential for this purpose that in a new Colony the Crown 
should not divest itself of its power of legislation and that neither 
the Crown nor the Parliament should be subject to the embarrass- 
ments which on such an occasion might perhaps arise from the con- 
flicting views of the Imperial Parliament and of a subordinate 

'Under these considerations you may consider it a point deter- 
mined that it is not advisable to establish within the Island of 
Trinidad any independent Legislature. 

'In reserving to himself the power of legislation, His Majesty will 
delegate in some degree that power as far as local considerations 
may render necessary or expedient to the Governor as His 
Representative whose acts will be always subject to be reviewed, 
altered or revoked by His Majesty himself. 

'In exercising this power for local purposes His Majesty feels the 
advantage which may arise in a Council selected by the Governor 
from the most respectable of the inhabitants of the Island, but such 
a Council must be considered as a Council of advice and not of 
control. The determination of the Governor, even if it should be 
contrary to the opinion of such a Council, must be considered as 
obligatory till such time as His Majesty's pleasure shall be known; 
the members of the Council may, however, in such cases be allowed 
to transmit their opinion together with their reasons for His 
Majesty's consideration. 

The advantages of a government of this description in Colonies 


and remote settlements have been experienced in other instances 
and furnish the strongest possible inducements for acting upon this 
principle upon the present occasion. 

'Upon the second point - the introduction of British laws into the 
Island of Trinidad - 1 am not as yet enabled to give you a decided 
opinion. The subject is necessarily extensive and complicated. It is 
at the time under the serious consideration of His Majesty's 
Government and I hope to be able soon to communicate to you at 
large their sentiments upon it. But I thought it of importance that 
no time should be lost in conveying to you the determination of 
His Majesty's Government for the information of the inhabitants 
of the Colony upon the important subject of an internal legislature.' 

Trinidad therefore began its association with the British Empire as 
a type of colony unknown at that time, a Crown Colony in which the 
British Government retained complete control, and which the British 
Government hoped to establish as a model for the self-governing 
colonies in the West Indies, in respect of legislation governing the 
treatment of the slaves. Let it be understood, however, that the prin- 
cipal reason for this decision was to deny the vote to people of colour 
who were otherwise qualified. This decision must be seen also in the 
context of the colour discrimination practised in Trinidad at the time. 

The free people of colour had to pay a special tax for dances and 
public entertainments. They had to be off the streets at the ringing of 
the jail bell at 9.30 p.m. They were charged half price for passports 
and charged less than the whites for medical attendance. A broken 
leg was set for a white person for $86.40, for a free person of colour 
for $68.12. But the price for a thigh bone was the same, whatever 
its colour. In 1822 Governor Woodford sought a ruling from the 
Secretary of State as to whether he ought to permit a young coloured 
doctor trained in England to practise in Trinidad. 

How seriously Britain took its decision to introduce the Crown 
Colony system is seen in a despatch of the Secretary of State on 
February 4, 1808, in which he rapped the Governor of Trinidad on 
the knuckles for falling into some misapprehension with respect to 
his prerogatives and to the power of the Cabildo over colonial 
revenues and officers in Trinidad. Lord Castlereagh wrote as follows 
to Governor Hislop: 

There is at present at Trinidad no regular Colonial form of 
Government, analogous to the old Governments of the other West 
India Islands, but the Island is governed by His Majesty's Preroga- 
tive in consequence of the Capitulation; as you have repeatedly 
been informed. 

The Colonial Revenue, therefore, and the appointment to all 
Offices in the Colony, are entirely subject to His Majesty's Pleasure 
and there is no authority in the Colony that is known or recognised 
here which can order the expenditure of any sums of money except 
the Governor under His Majesty's authority. 


'Neither is there any authority in the island which can create a 
new office or appoint a new officer or remove an officer appointed, 
except the Governor under the authority of His Majesty; and you 
are restricted merely to the power of suspending officers who mis- 
conduct themselves, until His Majesty's Pleasure be known. 

It is therefore wished you would not, upon any account, permit 
His Majesty's Authority and Prerogatives which are entirely en- 
trusted to your care to be entrenched upon by any other Body, and 
that you would guard them from every intrusion whatever/ 

The Trinidad planters continued to agitate for self-government. A 
Royal Commission of Legal Enquiry, which in 1823 enquired into the 
administration of civil and criminal justice in Trinidad, noted that it 
was the unanimous feeling of the planters 'that no change which did 
not at the same time confer on them the benefit of a reasonable con- 
trol over the taxation and expenditure of the colony' would satisfy 
them. The result was the British decision in 1831 to replace the 
Governor's Council of advice by the Colony's first Legislature, the 
Council of Government. 

The Council consisted of the Governor as President, six official 
members -the Chief Justice, the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney 
General, the Colonial Treasurer, the Protector of Slaves and the 
Collector of Customs , and six unofficial members selected by the 
Governor from among the principal proprietors of the Colony. The 
Governor was given both an original and a casting vote. At the same 
time an Executive Council with advisory powers was established, com- 
prising the Governor as President, the Colonial Secretary, the Attorney 
General, and the Colonial Treasurer, In a despatch on May 25, 1831, 
to the Governor of Trinidad, Lord Goderich, the Secretary of State 
for the Colonies, explained one of the reasons for the refusal to grant 
Trinidad a self-governing Assembly instead of the Crown Colony 
Legislature, the final vestiges of which were not removed until the 
Constitution of December 1961, by which Trinidad achieved its 
aspirations to full internal self-government. Lord Goderich wrote as 

The benefits resulting from the election by the proprietary body, 
in every country, of the popular branch of the legislature are too 
familiar to require notice, and are so universally admitted as to 
preclude all controversy on the abstract principle. That principle is 
however wholly inapplicable to a state of society in which a very 
large majority of the people are in a state of domestic slavery, and 
in which those persons who are of free condition are separated from 
each other by the indelible distinction of European and African 
birth or parentage ... As society is at present constituted in the 
island His Majesty's Ministers will abstain from advising the in- 
troduction of a representative assembly and popular elections.' 

The crucial issue involved in this British decision not to introduce 
into Trinidad an elected assembly was the labour question. Sugar in 


particular required a great deal of labour, and no one thought of any- 
thing but sugar. For example Picton wrote to the Secretary of State 
on My 30, 1799: 

Trinidad should be regarded as a sugar Colony, the lands being 
generally more favourable to the production of Cane, than of Coffee 
or Cotton. The quantity of land to be granted should certainly de- 
pend upon the means of cultivation, but everything considered the 
smallest class of sugar plantation cannot consist of less than 200 
acres of good land, of which 100 acres for cane, 50 for pasture, and 
50 for Negro grounds, establishments and Casualties. A plantation 
of this class carried on with the greatest economy will require a 
capital of about 8,000 sterling.' 

Everybody agreed that Trinidad needed labour. The difficulty was, 
if Negro slaves were not to be imported from Africa, where then was 
the labour to come from? This raised two separate issues: (1) the 
recruitment of labour from outside of Trinidad; (2) the treatment of 
the slaves in Trinidad. 

First, the efforts to recruit labour from other countries. In this 
matter Trinidad was international in outlook and catholic in taste. 
Everybody was welcome. 

Attention was concentrated on the possibility of attracting addition- 
al white settlers. The British Government in Trinidad behaved as if 
the West Indian slate in this matter was entirely clean, and ignored 
all the precedents for 300 years which indicated that labour could not 
be provided from those sources. In December, 1802, the Secretary of 
State for the Colonies urged the Governor of Trinidad to give atten- 
tion to attracting industrious Protestant dissenters from Ireland and 
Scotland on a three-year indenture at 60 cents a day for labourers 
and $1.20 a day for artisans and with the grant of three acres of land 
for an adult and two for a child. All the Secretary of State had to do 
was to read up British records on similar 17th century efforts in 
Jamaica and Barbados or to ask the French Government for advice 
based on their 17th century experience. The Secretary of State also 
proposed efforts to attract men from the Army and Navy who were 
no longer on active service, on the basis of land grants varying from 
150 acres to Field Officers and 10 acres to Corporals. As the Secretary 
of State put it: The advantages which might be expected to accrue 
from the introduction of a European yeomanry in Trinidad are so 
great that I cannot too strongly recommend that subject to your most 
serious consideration/ 

The great problem where the European settlers were concerned was 
climate. Picton issued a stern warning about this and suggested that 
Europeans should be located on the higher parts of the river Caroni. 
The first Germans who arrived appeared to have been placed on the 
borders of the Arouca Savannah, and were regarded as a very valu- 
able acquisition. The Trinidad Government was of the opinion that 
success in respect of European immigration depended very largely 


on the provision of houses for them in or near Port-of -Spain which 
they might rent until accommodation was available in the area to 
which they might be assigned. 

Particular emphasis was placed on the other West Indian Islands 
as a source of labour for Trinidad. Governor Picton anticipated a 
large influx from the Bahamas, Barbados and all the Windward and 
Leeward Islands. One William Tucker of Bermuda petitioned in 1804 
for permission to settle Guayaguayare with mechanics and seamen 
from Bermuda; at the time the population of Guayaguayare was 66 
planters, mostly French, with 400 slaves, whilst at Mayaro, which was 
virtually covered with sugar plantations, there were 120 French settlers 
with 380 slaves. 

This was the basis of the considerable intercolonial slave trade 
which developed after the abolition of the slave trade in 1807, under 
the guise of domestic servants attending on their master. What was 
really involved was the transfer of slaves from the less productive and 
less profitable older islands to the newer and virgin soils of Trinidad 
and British Guiana. Between 1813 and 1821 Trinidad received over 
3,800 such slaves, of whom nearly 1,100 came from Dominica and 
nearly 1,200 from Grenada. 

The trade was a fraud and was not really an immigration of 
domestic servants. For example, an indigent planter in Barbados came 
to Trinidad with his family attended by 14 slaves, one of whom was 
a carpenter. Of 266 domestics imported into Trinidad from Barbados 
during the year 1827, 204 had changed owners by the end of the 
year and 81 had ceased to be domestics. People who used to travel 
before with no servant at all suddenly began to travel to Trinidad or 
Guiana accompanied by two domestic slaves for each member of the 
family, however numerous. 

It was the superior value of slaves and the greater fertility of the 
soil of Trinidad and Guiana which formed the background to this in- 
tercolonial slave trade. The cost of a slave in Barbados or Antigua was 
only 35 or 40, in Guiana and Trinidad it was from 80 to 90. The 
relative fertility of Demerara and Barbados, as judged by exports, 
was in the proportion of four to one. In Demerara it took 200 days* 
labour to produce 5,000 Ibs. of sugar, in Barbados 400. In the former 
the sugar was produced without any outlay of capital for manure, in 
the latter it required twenty-five per cent of the labour of the planta- 
tion. The canes in Trinidad produced saccharine matter in the 
proportion of 5 to 2 as compared with the older islands; the average 
output of sugar was three hogsheads per slave as compared with one 
in the older islands. 

This trade continued and developed with the connivance and the 
full protection of the authorities in Trinidad. The Governor of Trini- 
dad, for example, Sir Ralph Woodford, wrote touchingly contrasting 
conditions in Tortola and in Trinidad; in Tortola, he said, the poor 
slaves had only six pints of commeal per week, whilst in Trinidad 
no one starved and the Negro had not only his pig but half a dozen 


goats as well and the fertility and extent of the soil permitted the 
planters to give the slaves more land for the cultivation of their 
provisions. And as Trinidad was maintained by the British as a model 
slave colony, where, unlike the self-governing islands, British legisla- 
tion by order in council was in effect and in force, the Trinidad 
planters, with the Attorney General as their mouthpiece, speciously 
urged that 'if the order in council cannot go to the slaves, the slaves 
might be permitted to come to the order in council in Trinidad.' 

The third possible source of labour for Trinidad was China, and 
the early documents of Trinidad under British rule are full of the 
Chinese prospects. It was proposed to the British Government by 
Governor Picton as early as 1802. High hopes were placed on the 
Chinese, one lobbyist going so far, in advancing the superiority of 
free labour over slave, as to estimate that two Chinese labourers with 
a light plough and buffalo would do as much work as 40 stout Negroes. 
In 1806, 147 Chinese workers arrived in Trinidad, followed by a 
further 192 in the same year. But the following year thirty or forty 
applied for permission to return to China and the first criticism was 
voiced by the Council of Trinidad of this emigration, on the ground 
that it would prove 'an external expense to the Government'. ' 

One of the difficulties was that Chinese women did not accompany 
the workers, and the free women of colour in Trinidad, it was alleged, 
considered themselves superior to the Chinese who, though free in 
name, were performing the work of slaves. So the Governor reported 
in 1807. Anyone familiar with the complex nature of the Trinidad 
population of today will readily recognise that, if this were true in 
1807, the women of Trinidad soon changed their minds. By 1814 the 
hopes placed on China had failed. Those who remained, about thirty 
in number, were regarded as useful fishermen and butchers. Had they, 
in the Governor's opinion, brought with them wives and families and 
priests, they would have been a very valuable addition to the Trinidad 
population. But those who were brought to Trinidad seemed incapable 
of and disinclined to the fatigues of agricultural labour in the tropical 

The planters, in their desperate search for labour, thought of 
Africans, Amerindians, and even convicts. In 1825 the Governor 
recommended that African women should be brought in from Sierra 
Leone. Almost incredibly, the British Government, in 1802, suggested 
the use of Amerindians from the South American continent. And 
as if the whole previous history of European colonialism in th.e West 
Indies did not cry out aloud against the use of convict labour the 
Secretary of State suggested that consideration should be given to a 
selection from the least undeserving of convicts who should be 
assigned to various employers to be clothed and fed by them until they 
had served their sentence. 

There was only one country, India, that really remained to which 
consideration might be given, and the Governor, Sir Ralph Wood- 
ford, recommended it in a despatch to Earl Bathurst, Secretary of 


State for the Colonies, on October 3, 1814. His recommendation read 
as follows : 

The cultivators of Hindostan are known to be peaceful and 
industrious. An extensive introduction of that class of people accus- 
tomed to live on the produce of their own labour only, and totally 
withdrawn from African connections or feelings, would probably 
be the best experiment for the population of this Island where the 
King has the power of enacting the laws and regulations he may 
think fit for their protection and support and where the soil is grate- 
ful and probably corresponds much with that of their own country. 
But without their priests, their chiefs (one of whom it would 
be desirable should be acquainted with some one of the European 
languages), their families, their artisans, their plants and seeds, the 
success of such a plan could not be expected. 

They might easily select a favourable spot for their residences, 
and if after some time they should find an inclination to work on 
the sugar estates, the Planter would have the best means of satisfy- 
ing himself of the advantages of free labourers over slaves. If sugar 
can be raised in the East Indies at so much less an expense than in 
the West, the best means would soon be in the power of the specula- 
tive planter to commence an establishment by which from the 
reduced capital that only would be necessary and the avoiding the 
purchase of foreign provisions, he would be able to undersell every 
competitor whose produce might be raised by slaves.* 

The first suggestion that India might replace Africa as the source 
of labour in Trinidad involved the use of Indians not in a state of 
semi-servitude, working on the plantation for wages, but as small 
fanners cultivating their own land. 

Whilst all these efforts were being made to recruit labour from all 
parts of the globe, slave labour was becoming increasingly difficult, 
at least on the old terms. As Trinidad was a model British slave 
colony, the British Government experimented with it for the intro- 
duction of ameliorating measures designed to satisfy the criticisms 
of the abolitionists in England. The most important of these was the 
Order in Council of 1823 which the British Government hoped, after 
its introduction in Trinidad, would be adopted in the self-governing 
colonies. The principal features of the Order in Council were as 
follows : 

(1) A Protector of Slaves whose duties were regulated was to be 

(2) Sunday markets were abolished. 

(3) The performance of any labour by slaves between sunset on 
Saturday and sunrise on Monday was prohibited. 

(4) The carrying of any whip for the purpose of coercing slaves 
to perform labour was declared illegal. 

(5) No slave was to be punished until 24 hours after the offence, 


and then only in the presence of at least one free person in 
addition to the person ordering the punishment. 

(6) The use of the whip on female slaves for any offence was 

(7) Books and records, including one for punishments, were to 
be maintained. 

(8) The onus was placed on the slave owner to prove that no 
punishment was inflicted, should a slave prosecute the owner 
for improper punishment. 

(9) Marriages among slaves were to be encouraged. 

(10) The division of families when slaves were sold was prohibited. 

(11) The slave was permitted to possess and bequeath property. 

(12) The slave was permitted to manumit himself without the 
owner's consent. 

(13) The fee for manumission was fixed at not more than 20 

(14) Appraisement of his value when a slave was affected in a 
mortgage or a law settlement was regulated. 

(15) When a slave under six years or over fifty was manumitted, 
the owner was required to provide gratuitously a bond of 200 
so as to provide for his sustenance. 

(16) Clergymen were authorized to certify that slaves had sufficient 
religious instruction to understand the nature of an oath and 
to be competent witnesses in a Court of Law. 

The second British measure for the control and amelioration of 
slavery was the Slave Registration Bill of 1816. This Bill, as applied 
to Trinidad by an Order in Council of March 26, 1812, was designed 
specifically, by establishment of a Public Registry for the registration 
of the names, description, births and death of all slaves, to prevent 
illegal and clandestine importation of slaves into Trinidad in violation 
of the Bill for the Abolition of the Slave Trade in 1807. The registra- 
tion, as of January 1814, produced a total of 25,717 slaves, of whom 
8,633 were domestic slaves and 17,084 plantation slaves. 

It was against this background of an acute shortage of labour that 
Trinidad's economic development proceeded in the period between 
its annexation by Britain and the emancipation of the slaves in 1833. 
The island's sugar exports to Britain increased from 5,920 tons in 1812 
to 10,334 tons in 1833. Trinidad's rum exports to Britain declined in 
the same period from 39,126 gallons to 223 gallons. Its cotton exports 
to Britain stood at 745,049 Ibs. in 1812 and 11,951 Ibs. in 1833. Coffee 
exports increased from 75,500 Ibs, to 154,901 Ibs. during the same 
period. Exports of cocoa increased from 204,400 Ibs. to 1,755,144 Ibs. 

Cocoa was king, and in 1818 the Governor emphasised that it was 
only by encouraging the growth of cocoa that Trinidad could be 
settled. The island's total exports of cocoa increased from 96,000 Ibs. 
in 1797 to 3,090,526 Ibs. in 1833. One enthusiast, in a communication 
to the Governor, recommended that Trinidad should be made a cocoa 


island and all the slaves who were employed in distilling poisonous 
rum and making bad sugar should be made to plant cocoa. 

The only other important feature of Trinidad's economy in the 
period under British rule before emancipation was its trade relations 
with Venezuela. From the very outset Trinidad's importance to 
Britain was seen in the context of the advantage which its strategic 
position afforded of shipping British manufactures into South America 
in contravention of the Spanish Exclusive. Trinidad, which was of no 
use to Spain at all, found its principal advantage to Britain in 
its goegraphical location in respect of Spanish South America. Thus 
one of the principal objectives of the Trinidad Government was to 
maintain good relations with Venezuela. It protested sharply when in 
1816 Simon Bolivar decreed the emancipation of slaves, partly 
because this would inspire the slaves of Trinidad, and partly be- 
cause the resulting disturbances would disrupt commercial relations 
with Trinidad. It went almost frantic when Trinidad conspirators 
congregated on Chacachacare in 1813 to plot an attack on Venezuela; 
the Governor immediately ordered a detachment of the first West 
India Regiment to proceed to Chacachacare to disperse them, and 
followed this up by a Proclamation of neutrality in 1815 threatening 
with deportation and banishment all inhabitants of Trinidad detected 
in conveying to the Spanish province of the Continent of South 
America either arms, ammunition or warlike stores. The value of 
Trinidad's trade with the Spanish Main, which brought mules, cattle, 
hogs, and cotton to Trinidad and took out British manufactures for 
Venezuela, was estimated in 1805 at $859,000 in imports and 
$1,112,000 in exports. 

This was Trinidad in the first 36 years of British colonialism, in its 
economic and political aspects. 

In its social aspect this community, whose population increased 
from 30,742 in 1811 to 42,874 in 1828, presented a powerful contrast 
with the Trinidad which became Independent in 1962. 

The Capital of the island had been shifted from St Joseph to Port- 
of -Spain. But Port-of -Spain in this period included little more than 
what are today Duncan, Nelson and George Streets, going as far north 
as Duke Street and as far west as Frederick Street. The city of wooden 
structures was reduced on the night of March 24, 1808, for the most 
part to ashes, as a result of a fire which broke out sometime after 10 
o'clock in the house of a druggist. 412 houses and 337 stores were 
completely burnt out, and the number of people rendered homeless 
was 3,647, of whom 615 were whites, 1,004 free people of colour and 
2,028 slaves. The estimated loss in houses amounted to between three 
and four million dollars, and that in merchandise and produce 
equalled half a million sterling. Public buildings destroyed included 
a Protestant Church, Government House, the jail, the hospital and the 
Town Hall. 

A Committee of the Council appointed to report upon the fire 
advised that it would be necessary on an average to lend about $500 


each to a number of persons to enable them to rebuild their houses 
and emphasised that the calamity made it impossible to continue 
public works then in progress for the completion of the wharf, for 
bringing water from St Ann's to Port-of -Spain, and for improving 
the main road leading from Port-of -Spain to St Joseph. The Com- 
mittee therefore recommended an immediate application to the 
British Government for assistance in the sum of 110,000 sterling, 
such portion as was required for the benefit of individual sufferers 
being regarded as a free gift, and the remainder to be advanced as 
an interest-free loan to be repaid in due course from the funds of the 

This disaster was followed ten years later by a similar fire in San 
Fernando which broke out at one o'clock in the day and which in a 
short time destroyed 60 houses, 200 hogsheads of sugar, a consider- 
able quantity of rum and several stores of merchandise. The 
Governor, Sir Ralph Woodford, turned to the British Government. 
In a despatch of May 5, 1818, he wrote: 

'Might I hope that this calamity will induce His Majesty's Govern- 
ment to grant us some assistance? The total stagnation of trade 
from the affairs of the Main renders that assistance more necessary 
as our wants are daily becoming more urgent- It will be likewise 
necessary to give shelter to the poor, free people who have lost their 
houses. Is it hopeless to expect a sum by way of a loan for which 
the Colony might pay the interest which might be secured by an 
order to the Colonial treasurer to make the half yearly payment 
to the Collector of Customs?' 

Trinidad, in the first three decades of the 19th century, suffered 
partly from five major problems: bad bread, medical quacks, small 
pox, illegal immigrants, and bad roads. A Proclamation of July 16, 
1814, imposed severe penalties for bad bread and adulteration of 
flour and established a rigorous system of inspection, under which 
the Chief of Police was required to visit on one day of the first week 
in every month all bakeries to inspect the flour and bread in their 

The Medical Board was constituted in 1815 in order to protect the 
population against imposition by so-called doctors of foreign 
nationality; one such, when asked to show his alleged diploma from 
the College of Surgeons in London for registration, replied that he 
was forbidden to do so by the Act of Parliament incorporating the 
College of Surgeons, and that it was derogatory to him to show the 
degree which the College had conferred upon him. The Governor 
issued a Proclamation prohibiting all persons from the practice of 
medicine or surgery without publication of their names in the Gazette, 
and prohibiting the sale of medicines or drugs of any kind to any slave 
without an order in writing from the owner or manager of the estate 
to which the slave belonged. 


In 1819, a Proclamation was issued requiring all the inhabitants to 
be vaccinated against smallpox. 

A Proclamation of 1804 enjoined specific precautions against illegal 
immigrants and required the frequent search of all houses both by 
day and by night for the apprehension of suspected illegal immigrants. 
All houses in Port-of -Spain were to be numbered and each house- 
keeper, white or coloured, was required to affix to the street door on 
a card or sheet of paper the names of the persons living in the house, 
all inmates and lodgers, and all servants and slaves employed therein. 
A Board of Superintendence and Control was set up to investigate all 
visitors to the colony. 

The notorious condition of the roads in Trinidad, especially in 
Mayaro, was demonstrated by a petition from the inhabitants and 
planters of Mayaro and Guayaguayare to be allowed to send their 
produce to Tobago instead of Port-of -Spain. 

Woodford Square, then known as Brunswick Square, was the sub- 
ject of a powerful protest from the adjoining proprietors against a 
proposal to .erect a new Protestant Church in the centre of the Square. 
The proprietors emphasized that the Square was necessary for air, 
pleasure and amusement and was also the parade ground of the Town 
Militia. The proprietors appealed to His Majesty's Council to prevent 
this breach of their privileges and their rights. 

In 1825 there were only six schools in the island -one English 
female boarding school and three French day schools in Port-of -Spain 
with 175 students; a school kept by the Cabildo for teaching the 
English language with 60 boys; and a small day school at an Indian 
village where only Spanish was taught. 

In 1810 a number of planters, in a petition to the King begged for 
the establishment of a Chamber of Agriculture and also a Botanic 
garden with a view to improving the standard of agriculture and intro- 
ducing better varieties of plants and new crops. 

This was the colony which Britain had developed as a model colony 
for the self-governing West Indian islands. There was nothing particu- 
larly model about its Government in the first few years after its 
annexation, which saw a fantastic innovation by the British Govern- 
ment to substitute three Commissioners for the former military 
governor, Picton. This immediately led to a struggle between Picton 
and the first of the three Commissioners, Fullarton. Even against the 
background of the well-known jealousy and individualism of Trini- 
dadians, the documents of this unseemly squabble between two of 
the Governors of the island make unpleasant reading. The squabble 
ended in Fullarton charging Picton with a variety of crimes including 
torture. The case went to the British courts where Picton was first 
found guilty, and then, after a retrial, was found not guilty. Rehabili- 
tated, he died fighting for his country at the Battle of Waterloo. 

Sir Ralph Woodford, a very young man who was the Governor 
of the territory for some 14 or 15 years, was superior to much with 
which the island was afflicted in the next hundred years. The illus- 


trious Cabildo inherited from Spain became anything but illustrious. 
Its annual revenue in 1809 was $21,656 and its expenditure $6,517. 
The Cabildo derived its revenue from liquor licences -in 1804 there 
were 50 such establishments in Port-of -Spain; licences for billiard 
tables; dues in the meat and fish markets; rents from the Five Islands 
rented out to cotton planters; rents of land on Marine Square, at the 
western extremity of the town, and from the Coconut Walk; the grant 
of one-quarter of one per cent of the island's revenue which had been 
made by the Spanish Government; payments for the use of the public 
well, pump and aqueduct for the convenience of shipping; fines im- 
posed on delinquents in the administration of justice; a tax on carts 
of $2 a month each; and a duty on foreign liquor, rum, brandy and 

The Cabildo spent its money on repairs of the public wharf; slave 
labour on works of public utility, maintenance of prisoners without 
means of subsistence; rent of a Town Hall; repairs to streets; print- 
ing; rent of a public jail; expenses of a Police Force and the over- 
seers of public works; and the expenses of such religious festivals as 
the Feast of St Joseph and Corpus Christi. 

As far as the defence of the island was concerned, it was the general 
opinion that Chaguaramas was the best spot for a military base, 
though some argued in favour of Chacachacare. 

In those days when sugar was cultivated at Laventille and what it 
is today the Lapeyrouse Cemetery was a sugar plantation, Chagua- 
ramas was an important part of Trinidad's sugar economy. This was 
reflected in the revolt of the slaves in Chaguaramas in 1805. It was 
alleged that the intention was a general massacre on Christmas Day of 
all whites and people of colour. The plot seemed to have been limited 
to slaves who had migrated from the French colonies. Two of them 
who styled themselves King and one who called himself General-in- 
Chief were condemned to hang on December 19; their heads were 
to be exposed after death on poles erected for the purpose and their 
bodies were to be hung in chains on the estate near the district where 
they resided. Subsequently, judgment was passed on six more of the 
ringleaders. The most culpable were sentenced to lose their ears, to 
be flogged on the gallows and to be banished from the colony fore- 
ever. Those less culpable were sentenced to corporal punishment and 
to work in chains for a specific period. The general alarm in the colony 
was aggravated by reports of slave disturbances in Tobago. Apprehen- 
sive of a growing insubordination among the slaves, the Cabildo passed 
orders in 1810 forbidding Negroes to carry cudgels or canes. 

Slavery was brought to an end with the Emancipation Bill of 1833. 
By this Bill the slave planter, and not the slaves, were paid by 
the British Government the sum of 20 million compensation. A com- 
parison of Trinidad with the other West Indian territories in this 
matter is of considerable importance not only for a study of the 
economic development of Trinidad up to 1833 but also for the future 
of race relations in Trinidad. 


The slaves were divided into three broad categories: predial 
attached, the field slaves; predial unattached; and non-predial slaves, 
employed in service, such as on the wharves, and domestic servants. 
There were also the children under six years of age on August 1, 1834, 
and the aged, diseased, or otherwise non-effective slaves. 

In the first three categories the total number of slaves emancipated 
in the West Indies amounted to 512,823, and the compensation paid 
for them amounted to 15,524,360. Of these totals the number of 
slaves in the third class in Trinidad amounted to 17,439 and the com- 
pensation to 973,443. The number of slaves in Tobago amounted 
to 9,078 and the compensation to 226,746. This compares with 
254,310 slaves in Jamaica, the compensation for whom totalled 
5,853,978; with 66,638 slaves in Barbados, the compensation for 
whom amounted to 1,659,316; and with 69,579 in British Guiana, 
whose compensation totalled 4,068,809. 

Trinidad had fewer slaves than Grenada (19,009), than St Vincent 
(18,114), or Antigua (23,350). Trinidad and Tobago combined had 
fewer slaves (26,517) than Dominica and St Kitts combined (27,331), 
or than St Lucia and St Vincent combined (28,442). 

Not only therefore was Trinidad less significant as a slave colony 
than the vast majority of West Indian colonies, but Trinidad's 
economic potential in comparison with that of the exhausted soil of 
the older islands made the slave in Trinidad an infinitely more valu- 
able piece of property than the slave in any other West Indian colony 
except British Guiana. The average of the compensation paid per 
slave was 58 in British Guiana and just under 56 in Trinidad. This 
compares with an average of 25 in Barbados and 23 in Jamaica. 
Tobago's average was as high as Barbados. The slave in Grenada 
or St Lucia, or St Vincent averaged 30 in respect of compensation 
money. The figure for St Kitts, Nevis and Montserrat was 20. The 
figure for Antigua was a mere 17. 

In addition to the adult and working slaves, a further 117,000 
slaves were emancipated for whom compensation amounting to 
892,000 was paid. These were 88,306 children under six, on whom 
some 647,000 was paid- a little over 7 each -and 28,701 aged and 
infirm slaves, for whom 144,000 was paid- a little over 5 each. 
Trinidad had 2,246 children and 872 aged and infirm slaves. The com- 
pensation for the former averaged over 22 per head, for the latter 
over 12 per head. A child under six in Trinidad fetched a higher 
compensation than an adult slave in St Kitts, Nevis, Montserrat and 
Antigua, and as high a compensation as an adult slave in Jamaica. 
The average compensation paid .per child in British Guiana was less 
than 20, as compared with 11 in St Vincent, 8 in Grenada, a little 
over 5 in Jamaica, and 4 in Barbados. The average compensation 
paid per aged slave in British Guiana was a little under 12, as com- 
pared with over 8 in Grenada, 8 in St Lucia, 4 in Jamaica, and 
2 in Barbados. 

There were few slaves in Trinidad in relation to the available land. 


A slave, therefore, young or old, field or domestic, effective or ineffec- 
tive, fetched a high price. But Trinidad in 1833 was not a plantation 
society. Rather it was a society of small estates operated by a few 
slaves. Comparing the number of slaves for whom compensation was 
paid with the number of claims for compensation, the figure in Trim- 
dad was seven slaves per claim, as compared with 23 in British Guiana. 
The average slave owner in Trinidad, in other words, had seven slaves. 
It is curious to see the classic islands of small farmers today as they 
emerged in 1833. In Tobago, an island of larger planters and larger 
plantations, the average was twenty-four slaves per claim. Grenada, 
Montserrat, Nevis, strongholds of the peasantry today, were plantation 
economies compared with Trinidad in 1833. The average number 
of slaves per claim was twenty-one in Antigua, twenty in St Vincent, 
eighteen in Grenada and Nevis, seventeen in Montserrat, fifteen in 
Jamaica, thirteen in St Kitts, eleven in St Lucia and Dominica and 
nine in Barbados. 

Even this average of seven slaves per claim in Trinidad may create 
a false picture. An analysis of 1,862 claims, 83% of the total claims, 
reveals that 30$ were claims for ownership of one slave only, 16% were 
claims for two slaves, 223? claims for three to five slaves, and 12% 
claims for six to ten slaves. Eighty per cent of the slave owners 
in Trinidad in 1833 owned less than ten slaves each. One per cent 
owned more than 100 slaves. By comparison, owners of less than ten 
slaves constituted 60% of the slave owners in Tobago, St Vincent and 
Dominica, 50% in Nevis and Montserrat. Persons owning more than 
100 slaves constituted 12% of the slave owners in Tobago, 10% i n 
Grenada and Nevis, 8% in Montserrat and St Vincent. 

A further point of great significance is indicated in this analysis 
of the slave compensation claims. The slave society wasted a great 
deal of labour in purely domestic servants, and the history of slavery 
in the Western Hemisphere is full of stories of Jamaican big houses 
with 40 servants, of the Surinam slave planter going to Church on 
Sundays accompanied by a slave girl carrying the cushion for him 
to kneel on, and the Brazilian slave planter being shaved by a barber 
with a slave girl standing by whose duty was at appropriate times to 
put the lighted cigar into his mouth and to take it out. 

The other side of this picture of a gross waste of labour in 
unproductive occupations was that the domestic slaves were relatively 
better and more leniently treated than the field slaves. The under- 
development of Trinidad's economy and the relatively peaceful rela- 
tions between slaves and masters was illustrated by the fact that there 
were three domestic slaves for every ten field slaves as compared with 
a ratio of under two to ten in Jamaica and one to ten in British 

A further illustration of this point, which had important conse- 
quences for the relative ease of race relations after emancipation, 
as compared with the 1865 rebellion in Jamaica and the Barbados 
disturbances over federation in 1876, is the fact that the compensa- 


tion paid for the third category of slaves, in service occupations and 
as domestic slaves, was higher in Trinidad than elsewhere and indeed 
was high even in Tobago. The compensation value of a domestic slave 
in Trinidad was over 55 as compared with 53% in British Guiana, 
24 in Jamaica, and 23 in Barbados. The value attached to a domestic 
slave in Tobago was over 35. 

The presence of a mere 17,439 slaves in Trinidad and a mere 69,579 
in British Guiana changed the whole course of history of these two 
colonies after emancipation. The labour problem led to the introduc- 
tion of an entirely new population in Trinidad, which converted the 
island from a society of small farmers into a typical plantation 
economy. The Crown Colony system made Trinidad safe for the sugar 


Trinidad's Labour Problem 
after Emancipation 

The fundamental question facing Trinidad, and indeed all the West 
Indian colonies after emancipation, was the question of labour. This 
meant simply this: would sugar continue to be the principal product? 
If so, would it continue on the basis of the plantation system? And 
if the plantation was to be perpetuated, how was a regular and con- 
tinuous supply of disciplined labour to be guaranteed? 

Put in its simplest form, the fundamental question boiled down 
to this: would the former slaves be prepared to continue, or could 
they be compelled to continue, to work on the same plantation for 
their former masters, for wages instead of for lashes? 

This problem dominated the discussions on the future of the sugar 
colonies both in England and in the colonies themselves. There was 
a division of opinion in both England and in Trinidad, but the opinion 
that favoured the perpetuation of the plantation system and the neces- 
sary measures to ensure a continued supply of labour for the planta- 
tions preponderated. 

Let us first consider the problem as posed in the metropolitan 
discussions. Trinidad being a Crown Colony, the metropolitan voice 
was decisive. In December 1832, on the very eve of emancipation, 
Lord Howick, Under Secretary of State for the Colonies, outlined the 
official policy of the British Government in a memorandum which 
stated the theory as follows: 

The great problem to be solved in drawing up any plan for the 
emancipation of the Slaves in our Colonies, is to devise some mode 
of inducing them when relieved from the fear of the Driver and 
his whip, to undergo the regular and continuous labour which is 
indispensable in carrying on the production of Sugar . . . Their 
(the planters') inability ... to pay liberal wages seems beyond all 
question; but even if this were otherwise, the experience of other 
countries warrants the belief, that while land is so easily obtain- 
able as it is at this moment, even liberal wages would fail to 
purchase the sort of labour which is required for the cultivation 
and manufacture of Sugar . . . The examples of the western States 
of America, of Canada, of the Cape of Good Hope, and of the 
Australian Colonies, may all be cited in order to shew that even 
amongst a population in a much higher state of civilisation than 
that to which the slaves in the West Indies have attained, the facility 
of obtaining land effectually prevents the prosecution by voluntary 
labour of any enterprise requiring the co-operation of many hands. 



It is impossible therefore to suppose that the slaves (who, though 
as I believe not more given to idleness than other men are certainly 
not less so) would if freed from control be induced even by high 
wages to continue to submit to a drudgery which they detest, while 
without doing so they could obtain land sufficient for their 
support , . . I think that it would be greatly for the real happiness 
of the Negroes themselves, if the facility of acquiring land could 
be so far restrained as to prevent them, on the abolition of slavery, 
from abandoning their habits of regular industry . . . Accordingly, 
it is to the imposition of a considerable tax upon land that I chiefly 
look for the means of enabling the planter to continue his business 
when emancipation shall have taken place . . .' 

The essence of the Crown Colony system is that it disregards the 
opinions of the governed. We do not know therefore what the eman- 
cipated Negroes thought of the principles and proposals quite 
unambiguously stated by Lord Howick. If Trinidad was to be settled 
and developed, it was to be done on the basis of the plantation and 
not of the small farmer. The Crown Colony system so ruled. To put 
the matter as crudely as possible, land ownership was to be retained 
in white hands and it was to be made as difficult as possible for black 
people to own land. 

It has to be borne in mind in all this glib talk that has been prevalent 
in Trinidad for over a century that the former slaves did not desert 
agriculture. They deserted plantation agriculture on the terms and 
conditions prescribed by the Trinidad planters in alliance with the 
British Government. Everything was done to discourage them from 
remaining in agriculture after emancipation. Thus it was that in 1841 
the Trinidad planters objected to a proposal from the Secretary of 
State that 40 acres should be the smallest area of Crown land granted 
to any person, and stated emphatically that it would be most injurious 
to the interest of the colony to dispose of any area smaller than 320 
acres. The Trinidad Council of Government went on to point out that 
the optimum size of a sugar plantation was 640 acres. The Trinidad 
planters therefore made it quite clear that in their opinion the develop- 
ment of Trinidad's economy was to be based on sugar and on the 
large sugar plantations. 

Acting in accordance with the philosophy outlined by Lord Howick, 
the British Government did not decree full and unqualified emancipa- 
tion as from August 1, 1833. This was deferred until 1840 -the period 
was subsequently shortened to August 1, 1838. In the intervening 
period the slaves were to be apprentices, required to work under speci- 
fied conditions and for stipulated wages for their former masters. 

The Negroes in Trinidad, and indeed in the West Indies, objected 
violently. Even today, the long diatribe of the Port-of-Spain Gazette, 
the organ of the planters, on August 5, 1834, against the behaviour 
of the freed slaves makes amusing reading. The slaves, accustomed 
for two decades to the hostility of their masters to all the measures 


proposed by Britain in their behalf, refused to believe that they had 
not been freed outright. They regarded the apprenticeship system as 
a put-up job between their masters and the Governor. They called 
their masters 'dam tief and the Governor an 'old rogue,' and were 
convinced that the King was not such a fool as to buy them half free 
when he was rich enough to pay for them altogether. 

Thus August 1, 1834, faced the colony of Trinidad with its greatest 
social crisis until June 19, 1937. The half-emancipated slaves marched 
into Port-of -Spain from all parts of the island, wending their way to 
Government House to inform the Governor that they had resolved 
to strike. The Governor sought to remonstrate with them. They abused 
him, laughed at him, hooted him, and behaved in what the Gazette 
recorded as a most outrageous manner. Many of them were arrested, 
and seventeen of the most prominent ringleaders were condemned to 
stripes and hard labour. 

The expectation that this would intimidate the others was hopelessly 
misplaced. The apprentices in a large number followed the sentenced 
men to jail encouraging them not to mind their punishment, and 
vowing their determination to submit not only to punishment but to 
death itself rather than to return to work. The Riot Act was read with- 
out making the slightest impression on the multitude. The troops were 
thereupon ordered to clear the streets, which they did without acci- 
dent, but the apprentices promptly congregated in small groups, 
particularly the women, resolutely expressing their determination not 
to submit. Their demeanour, whilst determined, was absolutely peace- 
ful. Even the Port-of-Spain Gazette had to admit that not one cutlass 
or stick was to be seen amongst them, not a single individual 
was intoxicated, nor was one single act of personal violence or robbery 
reported. Not a single person convicted expressed contrition or even 
asked for pardon. It was quite clear that the former slaves in Trinidad 
were not prepared to accept conditions in which they were half slave, 
half free. 

A similar policy of apprenticeship was adopted in the Danish Virgin 
Islands after emancipation but there the anger of the Negroes was so 
pronounced that the system of apprenticeship was brought to an end 
after violent disturbances in 1878. The French Commission of Enquiry 
which preceded emancipation in the French islands, headed by the 
great radical democrat, Victor Schoelcher, totally repudiated the inter- 
vening stage of apprenticeship which it described as forced labour and 
a form of slavery. Schoelcher's Commission reported as follows: 

'The Negroes would find it difficult to understand how they could 
be free and constrained at one and the same time. The Republic 
would not wish to take away from them with one hand what it has 
given with the other; in the colonies as in the metropolis, the day 
of fictions is over.' 

It was the attempt to maintain the fictions in the British West Indies 
to prevent Negro land ownership, and to perpetuate the plantation 


economy by governmental action, the attempt in other words to inter- 
fere with the normal laws of supply and demand in the labour market 
and to prescribe the status of men who were in the same breath being 
called free, that gave rise to all the social troubles of the 19th century 
in the West Indies. 

The metropolitan climate was positively hostile to small ownership. 
In 1849, Thomas Carlyle, the great essayist and historian, wrote one of 
the bitterest denunciations of the West Indian workers in his offen- 
sive essay entitled Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question. He 
condemned emancipation as ruining the West Indies and as encourag- 
ing the former slaves to idleness, to lie in the sun and to eat pumpkins 
and yams. Carlyle advocated that the Negroes should be whipped back 
into slavery and kept there. Less offensive in language but equally 
hostile in outlook was Anthony Trollope whom we have encountered 
before in his discussion of Negro inferiority. Basing his arguments 
principally on Jamaica, Trollope too was of the opinion that emancipa- 
tion had ruined the West Indies, and he was convinced, as so much 
of British policy in the 19th century was designed to achieve, that the 
big house of the European plantocracy was the centre of culture and 
refinement in the West Indies and the only avenue to civilisation. 

Thus it was that when the freed workers of Jamaica petitioned 
Queen Victoria in 1865 for land which they could cultivate themselves, 
Queen Victoria, through the Secretary of State for the Colonies, made 
the famous reply which threw Jamaica right into the sanguinary revo- 
lution of 1865 which British troops suppressed with a brutality that 
is unparalleled in the sordid annals of West Indian history. Queen 
Victoria's reply was as follows: 

That the prosperity of the labouring classes, as well as of all other 
classes, depends, in Jamaica, and in other countries, upon their 
working for wages, not uncertainly, or capriciously, but steadily 
and continuously, at the times when their labour is wanted, and 
for so long as it is wanted: and that if they would thus use their 
industry, and thereby render the plantations productive, they would 
enable the planters to pay them higher wages for the same hours 
of work than are received by the best field labourers in this 
country; and, as the cost of the necessaries of life is much less in 
Jamaica than it is here, they would be enabled, by adding prudence 
to industry, to lay by an ample provision for seasons of drought 
and dearth; and they may be assured, that it is from their own 
industry and prudence, in availing themselves of the means of pros- 
pering that are before them, and not from any such schemes as have 
been suggested to them, that they must look for an improvement 
in their conditions.* 

The British defence 'of the plantation system as a centre of culture 
is something that students of West Indian history and society have 
never been able to understand. It lacked absolutely any basis in fact. 
Long ago, as far back as 1787, the well-known traveller, Baron de 


Wimpffen, had condemned planter society in Saint Domingue, the 
principal slave colony of the time, in memorable words. Describing 
the conversations among the planters, he wrote as follows: 'Each 
speaks of what interests him, so that one had hardly stopped speaking 
of one's slaves, one's cotton, one's sugar, one's coffee, before the dis- 
cussion begins again on cotton, sugar, coffee, slaves. All conversa- 
tions begin, continue, end and begin again with those subjects.' 

Thus it was also that the prominent British abolitionist, James 
Stephen, of the Colonial Office, could write of the planters in a famous 
memorandum in October 1831, these very same planters whom 
Trollope sought to eulogise thirty years later as the defenders and 
symbols of West Indian culture and civilisation: 'Their lives are 
passed in a contracted circle amidst petty feuds and pecuniary embar- 
rassments. There is no civilised society on earth so entirely destitute 
of learned leisure, of literary and scientific intercourse, and even of 
liberal recreations.' 

Thus it was, finally, that an independent American observer, 
William Sewell, of the New York Herald Tribune, who visited the 
West Indies in 1859 in order to appraise the success of the emancipa- 
tion legislation, was able to write one of the most devastating indict- 
ments of British and colonial policy in the history of the West Indies. 
Everywhere that Sewell went, in Barbados, in St Vincent, in Jamaica, 
in Trinidad, he found that production had increased, the Negroes 
were industrious, the standard of living had risen, the standard of 
housing had improved, and that emancipation was a success not only 
socially but also economically. His conclusions represented, in the 
light of Carlyle's defamation and Trollope's denunciation, one of the 
most passionate defences of the emancipated slaves ever written for 
any slave colony. In his well-known book, The Ordeal of Free Labour 
in the British West Indies, one of the most powerful documents in 
British West Indian history, Sewell summed up the conclusions of his 
observations as follows: 

'I have endeavoured to point out the two paths that lay open to 
the West Indian Creole after the abolition of slavery. The one was 
to remain an estate serf and make sugar for the planter; the other 
was to rent or purchase land, and work for estates, if he pleased, 
but be socially independent of a master's control. I endeavoured 
to follow these two classes of people in the paths they pursued - 
the majority, who have become independent, and the minority, who 
have remained estate labourers - and I have shown that the condi- 
tion of the former is infinitely above the condition of the latter. 
Is this anywhere denied? Can anyone say that it was not the lawful 
right of these people thus to seek, and, having found, to cherish 
their independence? Can anyone say that, by doing so, they 
wronged themselves, the planters, or the government under which 
they lived. Can anyone say that they are to blame if, by their suc- 
cessful attempts to elevate themselves above the necessitous and 


precarious career of labour for daily hire, the agricultural field 
force was weakened, and the production of sugar diminished? 

'Is it any argument against the industry of the labouring classes 
of America that a large proportion annually become proprietors, 
and withdraw from service for daily hire? Yet this is precisely what 
the West India Creole has done; this is the charge on which he has 
been arraigned -this is the crime for which he has been condemned. 

'Divested of such foreign incumbrances as defects of African 
character, and other similar stuff and nonsense, it is simply a land 
question, with which race and colour have nothing whatever to do. 
The same process goes on in the United States, in Canada, in 
Australia, and in all new countries where land is cheap and plentiful 
and the population sparse. The labourer soon becomes a pro- 
prietor; the ranks of the labouring force are rapidly thinned; and 
the capitalist is compelled to pay high, it may be extravagant wages. 
In the West Indies the capitalist refuses to pay high wages; 
he thinks that the control of the labour market is one of his rights. 
He imagines, and upon what ground I cannot comprehend, that 
farming in these colonies should yield much larger profits than 
farming anywhere else. He calls it planting, and fancies that there 
ought to be a wide social distinction between the man who grows 
cane or cotton and the man who grows potatoes and parsnips. God 
save the mark! Does anyone dream that if West India planters 
stuck to their business like English farmers, and possessed one half 
of their practical ability and industry, the agricultural and com- 
mercial interests of the islands would have ever suffered from 
emancipation? The profits of sugar-cultivation, according to the 
planter's creed, must be large enough to yield the proprietor, though 
an absentee, a comfortable income, and pay large salaries besides 
to overseers and attorneys; otherwise estates are abandoned, and 
the sugar interest is ruined. These expectations might have been 
realized in the days of the old monopoly; they certainly are not 
realized now, and never can be realized again, unless the British 
people recede from their principles of free trade and free labour. 
If labour in the West Indies is high -so high that sometimes the 
planter cannot afford to pay the price demanded -he is not worse 
off than the capitalist in all new countries.* 

It was not easy, however, to stem the tide of the metropolitan 
current fed by its colonial tributaries. Secretaries of State and Colonial 
Governors combined to condemn the small land owner and to 
advocate the large plantation. A group of Mandingos in Trinidad 
petitioned the Secretary of State to be allowed to go back to Africa. 
War veterans of the West Indies Regiment settled in Manzanilla and 
Turure, without roads, without bridges, they pleaded either for the 
amenities which they had been promised on disbandment or for per- 
mission to leave the settlement and go elsewhere. Their petition went 
unheeded. Occasionally a Secretary of State for the Colonies came 


to the defence of the small man, as was the case with Lord John Rus- 
sell in a despatch to the Governor of British Guiana, another Crown 
colony, in 1840. Russell wrote as follows: 

'It is not to be expected, that men who can subsist in comfort 
without hard labour, will continue to devote themselves to it. The 
state of planter and slave left the West India colonies without a 
middle class; the more careful and intelligent of the emancipated 
negroes became petty traders. A few acres of ground will produce 
provisions for a family, with some surplus to sell at market, and 
bring home manufactured goods; the negroes who earn high wages, 
buy or hire plots of land, and refuse to let their daily labour for 
hire. There is nothing in this singular or culpable. No man in this 
country, who has capital sufficient to keep a shop, or rent a farm, 
will follow the plough as a day-labourer, or work from morning 
till night as a hand-loom weaver. 

*Nor, let me observe, were the damage to end here, would the 
British Government have any cause to feel disappointment. Carry- 
ing into effect the religious and benevolent views of the nation at 
large, it was their object to convert slaves into free men; to rescue 
their brethren of Africa from the lash of compulsory toil, and estab- 
lish them as Christian men on the soil where they had been trans- 
ported as chattels, or beasts of burden. On this, the principal 
question of all, there is, I am happy to say, no room for doubt. None 
of the most inveterate opponents of our recent measures of emanci- 
pation allege that the negroes have turned robbers, or plunderers, 
or bloodthirsty insurgents. What appears from their statement is, 
that they have become shopkeepers, and petty traders, and hucksters, 
and small freeholders; a blessed change, which Providence has 
enabled us to accomplish. 

'But, supposing everything to be done, which, by bounties on 
emigration, locating captured negroes and natural increase of 
population can be expected, it will still remain a problem, whether 
it would be possible to maintain sugar cultivation to its former ex- 
tent, for this is what is meant by the term "prosperity" while, on 
the other hand, the term "ruin" is used to designate not the poverty 
of the people, not the want of food or raiment, not even the absence 
of riches or luxury, but simply the decrease of sugar cultivation. 

'Let me, then, look at this question largely. It is stated (I take 
it only from illustration), that the wages of a day labourer are, in 
Guiana, Is. 6d. per day, and in Hindostan not more than 2d. When 
you should have removed to Guiana a large number of labourers, 
they are still to be free labourers; the soil is fertile, the climate 
invites to indolence: the African race love ease and enjoyment, 
at least as much as any other; you have still no certainty for your 
sugar crop. In the meantime it is a mere matter of calculation to 
the capitalist what sugar will cost him to raise in Hindostan, to bring 
to England, and to clear of duty; and whether, all this done, he 


can compete successfully with the Demerara planter. If he can, the 
sugar business will rise in Bengal, and the Coolie remain at home; 
the plantation will be found for the labourer, and not the labourer 
go to the plantation. Changes in commerce as great as thfe took 
place when woollen manufacturers came from Tuscany to England, 
and fabrics of silk went from the East to France. 

'Having made these observations, I have to add, that I have no 
indisposition to allow the attempt to be made to recruit extensively 
the population of Guiana . . . 

'But in whatever degree I might be disposed to yield to the 
representations of the merchants and proprietors, whether in this 
country or in the colonies, I must enjoin upon you to bear in mind, 
that the happiness of the inhabitants of the colony you are appointed 
to govern is the chief object. Encourage religious instruction, let 
them partake of the blessings of Christianity, preserve order and 
internal peace, induce the African race to feel that wherever the 
British flag flies they have a friend and a protector, check all 
oppression, and watch over the impartial administration of the law. 
By such means our colonies in the West Indies will be made to 
flourish, though in a different form and a different sense from that 
in which the term has been hitherto used. The Queen, whose com- 
mands I now convey to you, looks for Her reward in the faithful 
attachment of a million of Her people, whom it has been Her care 
to render worthy of the boon which it was the happiness of Her 
predecessor to be enabled to grant, by the liberal assistance of His 
Parliament, and amid the joy of His subjects.* 

The Parliament, itself full of members who owned estates in the 
West Indies and had drawn on the compensation paid for the slaves, 
was unambiguously on the side of the planters and against the fanners. 
A Committee of the House of Commons on the West Indian colonies 
arrived at the following resolutions on July 25, 1842: 

'1. THAT the great act emancipating the Slaves in the West 
Indian Colonies has been productive, as regards the character and 
condition of the Negro Population, of the most favourable and 
gratifying results. 

'2. THAT the improvement in the character of the Negro in 
every Colony into the state of which this Committee has had time 
to extend inquiry, is proved by abundant testimony of an increased 
and increasing desire for religious and general instruction; a grow- 
ing disposition to take upon themselves the obligations of marriage, 
and to fulfil the duties of domestic life; improved morals; rapid 
advance in civilisation, and increased sense of the value of property 
and independent station. 

*3. THAT, unhappily, there has occurred, simultaneously with 
this amendment in the condition of the Negroes, a very great 
diminution in the staple productions of the West Indies, to such 
an extent as to have caused serious, and, in some cases, ruinous 


injury to the proprietors of estates in those Colonies. 

'4. THAT while this distress has been felt to a much less extent 
in some of the smaller and more populous Islands, it has been so 
great in the larger Colonies of Jamaica, British Guiana, and Trini- 
dad, as to have caused many estates, hitherto prosperous and 
productive, to be cultivated for the last two or three years at con- 
siderable loss, and others to be abandoned. 

*5. THAT the principal causes of this diminished production and 
consequent distress are, the great difficulty which has been experi- 
enced by the Planters in obtaining steady and continuous labour, 
and the high rate of remuneration which they give for the broken 
and indifferent work which they are able to procure. 

*6. THAT the diminished supply of labour is caused partly by 
the fact that some of the former Slaves have betaken themselves to 
other occupations more profitable than field labour; but the more 
general cause is, that the labourers are enabled to live in comfort 
and to acquire wealth without, for the most part, labouring on the 
estates of the planters for more than three or four days in a week, 
and from five to seven hours in a day; so that they have no suffi- 
cient stimulus to perform an adequate amount of work. 

'7. THAT this state of things arises partly from the high wages 
which the insufficiency of the supply of labour, and their competi- 
tion with each other, naturally compel the Planters to pay; but is 
principally to be attributed to the easy terms upon which the use 
of land has been obtainable by Negroes. 

'8. THAT many of the former Slaves have been enabled to pur- 
chase land, and the labourers generally are allowed to occupy 
provision grounds subject to no rent, or to a very low one; and 
in these fertile countries, the land they thus hold as owners or 
occupiers not only yields them an ample supply of food, but in 
many cases a considerable overplus in money, altogether indepen- 
dent of, and in addition to, the high money wages which they 

'9. THAT the cheapness of land has thus been the main cause 
of the difficulties which have been experienced; and that this cheap- 
ness is the natural result of the excess of fertile land beyond the 
wants of the existing population. 

'10. THAT in considering the anxious question of what practi- 
cal remedies are best calculated to check the increasing deprecia- 
tion of West Indian property, it therefore appears that much might 
be effected by judicious arrangements on the part of Planters them- 
selves, for their own general advantage, and by moderate and 
prudent changes in the system which they have hitherto adopted. 

'11. THAT one obvious and most desirable mode of endeavour- 
ing to compensate for this diminished supply of labour, is to promote 
the immigration of a fresh labouring population, to such an extent 
as to create competition for employment. 
'12. THAT for the better attainment of that object, as well as 


to secure the full rights and comforts of the Immigrants as freemen, 
it is desirable that such immigration should be conducted under 
the authority, inspection, and control of responsible public officers. 

*13. THAT it is also a serious question, whether it is not required 
by a due regard for the just rights and interests of the West Indian 
Proprietors, and the ultimate welfare of the Negroes themselves, 
more especially in consideration of the large addition to the labour- 
ing population which it is hoped may soon be effected by immigra- 
tion, that the laws which regulate the relations between employers 
and labourers in the different Colonies, should undergo early 
and careful revision by their respective Legislatures.' 

If the emancipated slaves would not work on the plantations on 
terms which the planters and the British Government considered 
essential to the maintenance of plantation profits, then a totally new 
population was to be brought in to compete with the emancipated 
slaves and to reduce wages. The point of view was stated even more 
brutally in the French colonies, of which Jules Duval, a well informed 
writer on colonial questions, wrote on December, 1, 1859: 

"The important matter of immigration is beginning to be settled. 
The solution seems to have been found, on condition that no 
account is taken of the former slaves and their descendants, who, 
left to themselves, without the paternal solicitude of their former 
masters, are relapsing into barbarism.* 

No account was to be taken of the former slaves. The metropolitan 
Governments had emancipated them and paid compensation not to 
them but to their owners* Only one voice was raised in favour of com- 
pensation to the slaves, the powerful voice of Victor Schoelcher of 
France. 'If France owes compensation for this social state which it 
has tolerated and is now suppressing, 9 wrote his commission, *it owes 
it rather to those who have suffered from that state rather than to those 
who have profited thereby*. Schoelcher wished to compensate the 
victims of slavery. He was overruled. The metropolitan governments 
compensated the beneficiaries of slavery. It was compensation not 
for the deprivation of liberty but for the expropriation of property. 
Much has been written about the magnanimity of the metropolitan 
governments, but it was magnanimity to the planter and not to the 
slave. No requirement was imposed that the money should be used to 
finance the necessary rationalisation of the Caribbean sugar economy. 
The planter was free to dispose of his money as he pleased; the 
absentee interests for the most part withdrew from the West Indies 

The slaves of Martinique, Jamaica and Barbados and, in their more 
limited way because of the paucity of their numbers, of British Guiana 
and Trinidad, unless they agreed, after emancipation, to work in the 
same economic relationship, notwithstanding the juridical change and 
the change in social conditions, to their masters as it prevailed before 


emancipation, then no account was to be taken of them. If they 
insisted on rising in the scale of civilisation through ownership of 
property and cultivation of their small farms, then they were to be 
allowed to vegetate in the island like the Manzanilla veterans, or to 
relapse into barbarism. A new population would be recruited, from 
somewhere in the world, to accept conditions of employment which 
the planters considered necessary to the maintenance of their profits 
and the preservation of the big house which Trollope endowed with 
a civilising mission. 

This attitude of mind, exemplified by the resolution of the Com- 
mittee of the House of Commons, reflected in the philosophy of Duval, 
and strongly supported by the planters of Trinidad, was sharply 
denounced by the Governor of Jamaica, Lord Elgin. In a despatch 
to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Stanley, on August 5, 
1845, Lord Elgin condemned the resort to immigration: 

'I have always considered a reliance on Immigration exclusively, 
as the only practical and available remedy for the material diffi- 
culties of the Colony, to be a serious evil, and averse to its best 
interests. At the time to which I refer it had already led to a reckless 
expenditure of the Public Funds. It was based on the hypothesis, 
expressed or understood, that the system of husbandry pursued 
during slavery was alone suited to tropical cultivation. Its tendency 
therefore was to discourage agricultural improvement, and to retard 
the growth of that more intimate sympathy between the enlightened 
friends of the Planter and the Peasant which I was so desirous to 

But there it was. Sugar was to remain king, and therefore no 
account was to be taken of those who had been emancipated from 
the slavery which sugar had imposed upon them. It was a reaffirma- 
tion of the fundamental thesis of West Indian society: no slavery, no 
sugar. Abolish slavery, and immediately reintroduce it in some form 
or other, whatever its modifications. The die was cast, and the future 
course of Trinidad's history prescribed. 

In 1848, on the eve of the vast new wave of immigration which was 
to continue until 1917, the Governor of Trinidad, Lord Harris, wrote 
memorable and prophetic words: 'A race has been freed, but a 
society has not been formed.' An Oxford Professor, lecturing to his 
students on Colonisation and Colonies, echoed the Governor's words. 
Speaking of the decision to bring in by immigration a new supply of 
labour in the colonies, he stated: 'Such a colony is but a great work- 
shop rather than a miniature state.* 

The British decision to maintain the Crown Colony of Trinidad 
as a plantation economy and to authorise the recruitment of a new 
supply of labour on contract guaranteed that Trinidad, grossly under- 
populated in 1833, would become a great workshop, that no further 
account would be taken of the race that had been freed, that a new 
race would be brought in which would subsequently have to be freed, 


and that the formation of a society as well as a miniature state would 
have to be deferred for over a century. 

Where was this new supply of labour to come from? Some came 
in from Portugal in 1834 and 1839, others came in from France in 
1839, and some additional European immigrants in 1840. The piteous 
petition of the Portuguese in 1835 to the Governor of Trinidad is the 
best commentary on this phase of the Trinidad labour policy after 
emancipation. The petition reads : 

The humble Petition of the undersigned subjects of the Crown 
of Portugal respectfully sheweth 

"That with many others of their countrymen, they were induced 
by certain evil disposed persons, under false pretences, to quit their 
native country, Fayal, to become agricultural labourers in this Colony. 

'Of the whole number thus cajoled, one third only are still in 
existence. The rest have fallen victims to the unhealthiness of the 
climate or to the cruelties of the slavery system to which we, 
equally with the unfortunate blacks have been subjected. For let 
speculators in human blood deny it as they will, the awful calamity 
which has occurred among our countrymen, in so short a period 
as ten months, must have resulted from one or the other of these 
fatal causes, or from both combined. 

'Men, women and children, have suffered the greatest misery 
and oppression on the several estates where they have been forced 
to work far beyond their strength by coercion of the whip, without 
proper shelter at night or adequate food during the day. 

The consolation of religion has been denied them in the hours 
of sickness and death; whilst the bodies of the miserable victims 
of avarice have been thrown into holes and ditches without Christian 

'The cries of the fatherless children and widows have been loud 
in the land, but there was no response from Christian Charity to 
soften their grief, no arm of justice to relieve them from the hands 
of oppressors. 

'Few are they who are left to tell their tale of woe. 

'Your Excellency has often been apprised of these truths but our 
sufferings are unheeded. We have been advised that an appeal to 
the Governor General for the information of His Britannic 
Majesty's Government, would be attended to; but we hope Your 
Excellency will obviate the necessity for such an appeal by merci- 
fully acceding to the prayer of your humble petitioners; which is 

That Your Excellency will be pleased to collect together the few 
Portuguese labourers yet in existence in this Colony. 

That you will humanely relieve their immediate and pressing 
wants, particularly those of the poor and helpless orphans; 

'And that you will cause them to be transported back to their 
native country.' 


African immigration was also inevitably contemplated, principally 
from Sierra Leone. One important source of African recruits was the 
slaves captured by British men-of-war from Brazilian and Cuban 
slave ships which persisted in carrying on the slave trade in contraven- 
tion of the declaration of the European powers against the slave trade 
at the Congress of Vienna in 1815 which brought to an end the wars 
with Bonaparte. For some thirty years Britain's relations with Spain, 
France and the United States of America were bedevilled and 
jeopardised by Britain's insistence on the right of search of their vessels 
and their transportation of the captured slaves to British colonies, 
particularly Trinidad. 

It was hardly to be expected that Britain's rivals would see in 
Britain's policy anything more than a hypocritical attempt by Britain, 
under the guise of the suppression of the slave trade, to supply Negro 
labour to its under-developed colonies like Trinidad, without exposing 
itself to the charge that it was engaged in the slave trade. The Spanish 
Government, with Cuba on the threshold of that enormous expansion 
of sugar production which was to astonish the world in the 19th 
century, did not see eye to eye with Britain on this matter, and 
developed the most ingenious methods of agreeing to Britain's 
demands on paper and contravening them in fact. 

Behind it all lay Britains fear's of the intentions of the United States 
in the Caribbean, and particularly of American designs on Cuba. The 
British Government in 1826, through a letter from Canning to the 
British minister in Washington, expressed this fear as follows: 

"The avowed pretension of the United States to put themselves 
at the head of the confederacy of all the Americas, and to sway 
that confederacy against Europe (Great Britain included) is not a 
pretension identified with our interests, or one that we can counte- 
nance or tolerate.' 

Members of Parliament were more outspoken. One of the leading 
spokesmen in the Conservative Party, Lord George Bentinck, who 
went so far as to suggest that Britain should annex Cuba in order 
to put down the slave trade and thus protect rising British colonies 
like Trinidad which were denied the slave trade, issued a warning to 
Britain in 1848 that the United States was thinking of the Continent, 
the whole Continent and nothing but the Continent: 

'Uncle Sam will not be satisfied until , putting his hat on the 
British Colonies, resting his right elbow on the paradise of 
California, with his left hand on the eastern seaboard, he can throw 
his leg like a freeman over the Southern continent, with his heel in 
Cape Horn and Cuba for a cabbage-garden.' 

But by 1844 it was clear that all these palliatives would not suffice 
and that an adequate and dependable supply of labour could not be 
obtained for Trinidad from Europe or from Africa through Britain's 
efforts to suppress the slave trade to Cuba. It was clear also that other 


West Indian colonies like Barbados and Grenada would not readily 
agree to the migration of their own workers merely in order to develop 
Trinidad. In 1844 therefore the British Government took the bull by 
the horns and agreed to an immediate immigration from India to 
Trinidad of 2,500 Indian workers, the immigration being permitted 
from two ports, Calcutta and Madras. 

Considerable apprehension was expressed with respect to this new 
immigration. James Stephen of the Colonial Office warned that immi- 
gration might well, instead of reducing wages, increase them by 
enhancing the demand for houses, furniture, food, clothing for 
immigrants, and therefore the demand for builders, tailors, provision 
growers and so on. Stephen stated: 

'In these attempts to recruit a defective labouring population by 
artificial methods, we are engaged in a struggle against one of the 
fundamental laws of human society, and that it is only by the 
natural increase of the species that Trinidad or any other place can 
ever attain to that balance between capital and manual labour which 
secures to capital the maximum of profit, which is compatible with 
the general prosperity of the labourers.' 

The arguments were taken up by the abolitionists in the House of 
Commons. One of the most vigorous, George Thompson, said that 
the Indian immigrants into Mauritius were indolent, mendicants, run- 
aways, vagrants, thieves, vagabonds, filthy, diseased, dissolute, 
immoral, disgusting, covered with sores; some were priests, jugglers, 
barbers, wrestlers, cooks, grooms, buffoons, herdsmen, pedlars, scul- 
lions, bakers, tailors, confectioners, instead of agricultural labourers. 
*It would be found', he added, 'wherever this system was scrutinised, 
whether in India, Africa or Demerara, that these persons were a 
deeply demoralised class of human beings . . . The system of emigra- 
tion had been false, and to attempt to carry it out extensively, would 
only be to create a new slave trade under the false colours, and of 
a modified description, so as to injure materially the interests of the 
colonies, as to their social and moral condition.* 

But the British Government went its way and permitted Trinidad 
not only to recruit immigrants from India, but to do so at public ex- 
pense. One third of the cost of the immigrant's passage to Trinidad, as 
well as of any return passage that might be involved on the expiration 
of his contract, was to be borne out of public funds, in addition to 
which the conditions of immigration required the Colonial Govern- 
ment to spend more money on the Office of Protector of Immigrants, 
on medical service for the immigrants, and on the Police Force needed 
to keep the immigrants under control. The Government also stepped 
in to prescribe the rate of wages, that is to say to keep them down 
in the interests of the planters. These rates as published by the Trini- 
dad Government in 1844, amounted to $2.40 a month for male Indian 
labourers and $1.45 for female labourers, $3.35 for a sirdar and $250 
for a headman. 


The planters, like Oliver Twist, were always asking for more. In 
Trinidad and British Guiana the Public Treasury contributed approxi- 
mately one-third to the cost of immigration. In Jamaica, in 1876, 
they asked for one-half. In exasperation the Governor of Jamaica, 
Sir Anthony Musgrave, wrote to the Secretary of State for the 
Colonies, Sir Michael Hicks-Beach, on March 8, 1878, as follows: 

*By the new scheme, at large sacrifices by the community for this 
purpose, certain labour, labour secured by indenture for five years, 
is offered to the sugar plantation, at rates which do not amount to 
Is. 6d. per day; and under the scheme now proposed, the portion 
which constitutes the 6d. is virtually advanced to the planter by 
the public, and the repayment divided over five years. It is my 
deliberate opinion that if sugar cultivation cannot be continued 
at that rate of wages for labour in Jamaica, . . . the causes of the 
failure must be sought elsewhere than in the quarters where they 
are alleged to be found . . . And yet a section of the planting body, 
though I am glad to believe only a small section, protest clamorously 
that it will be impossible to carry on the cultivation on such terms 
as these. And one is led almost to the conclusion that no system 
for the future will be satisfactory to them which does not provide at 
the public expense for the payment of the estates weekly wages as 
well as the whole cost of the introduction of the immigrant to be 

Indian immigration was thus financed to a considerable extent by 
:hose with whom it was intended that the Indian immigrant should 

Thus it was that the whole population pattern in the West Indies 
mderwent a drastic change. Between 1838 and 1917, no fewer than 
138,000 Indians were introduced into British Guiana, 145,000 into 
Trinidad, 21,500 into Jamaica, 39,000 into Guadeloupe, 34,000 into 
Surinam, 1,550 into St Lucia, 1,820 into St Vincent, 2,570 into 
Grenada. In 1859, there were 6,748 Indians in Martinique. These are 
'ragmentary statistics, and do not give the whole picture. Yet they are 
ufficient to show a total introduction of nearly half a million Indians 
nto the Caribbean. 

Some idea of the scope of the immigration is afforded by statistics 
; or various years chosen at random; 1894 10,885; 1873 11,823; 
.86912,805; 187814,371. The importations into British Guiana 
tveraged nearly 3,000 a year, into Trinidad about 1,800. Imports into 
British Guiana were 9,101 in 1878; 7,512 in 1873; 7,258 in 1885; 
M68 in 1869; 7,160 in 1894. Trinidad imported 3,796 in 1905; in 
.872, 3,607; in 1869, 3,329; in 1875, 3,274; in 1892, 3,254; in 1910, 
1,228; in 1867, 3,267. In the four years 1878-1881, Guadeloupe 
mported 2,213, 2,141, 2,672 and 2,770, respectively. Surinam's peak 
vas 1,867 in 1909; in 1908, the figure was 1,674; in 1915, 1,567. The 
r ear of highest importation in Jamaica was 1847 2,438 immigrants; 
n 1912 the number was 1,985; and in 1846, 1,651. In 1862, 1,097 


Indians were introduced into Grenada. 

It only remains now to explain the reason for Britain's new policy 
to the West Indies and particularly to Trinidad. In 1846 the British 
Government abandoned its traditional colonial policy of the Exclusive 
and protection for colonial products in the British market. The indus- 
trial revolution in Britain was then in full swing and British goods, 
cheapest and best in the world at that time, required no protection in 
the small and limited colonial markets. Britain wanted to buy sugar 
from anywhere in the world in order to sell British goods to those 
sugar countries outside of the West Indies. Therefore Britain, as part 
of its general policy of free trade, abandoned the preferential sugar 
duties which had protected the British sugar colonies. The equalisa- 
tion of the duties was to take effect six years later in 1852. 

Britain, in other words, abandoned the Empire in 1846. The Empire 
remained a political association and its economic foundations were 
destroyed. It was not only a Government decision. The decision had 
the support of the overwhelming body of people in the country, except 
for a section of the Conservative Party led by Disraeli, who, whilst 
sharing in the prevailing mood of disgust with the colonies which he 
called millstones around Britain's neck, opposed the abandonment by 
the Conservatives of the traditional policy of protection, and, in a 
famous phrase, condemned the Conservative Government as nothing 
but an organised hypocrisy. 

Britain had already paid 20 million in compensation to the slave 
owners, 80 per cent of this to West Indian slave owners. If Britain 
was to abandon the traditional sugar preferences, then some further 
concession had to be made to the West Indian planters. That conces- 
sion was the immigration of a new supply of cheap labour working 
under some form of coercion, financed not by the planters in its 
entirety, but in part out of public funds, that is to say by the taxes 
of the very emancipated slaves with whom the new workers were to 
compete. Indian immigration in Trinidad and the West Indies was 
the price that Britain had to pay for abolishing the preferential sugar 
duties under the umbrella of which the West Indies had been 


The Contribution of the Indians 

The laws relating to immigration and Indian immigrants in Trinidad 
were consolidated and amended by an Ordinance of July 17, 1899. 
The analysis of this comprehensive Ordinance, which consisted of 276 
paragraphs and 52 long printed pages, exclusive of the Schedules, pro- 
vides the best available evidence of the treatment to which the Indian 
immigrants were subjected in Trinidad. 

Part I of the Ordinance deals with the Immigration Department. 
At the head of this Department was an official styled the Protector of 
Immigrants, assisted by the Sub-Protector of Immigrants, The Ordin- 
ance provided for Inspectors, Assistant Inspectors, Clerks, and Inter- 
preters attached to the Immigration Department, and paid cash salaries 
and allowances as were approved by the Legislative Council. The 
Medical Officers of the Government, headed by the Surgeon General, 
were authorised to visit any plantation on which there were immi- 
grants, inspect the dwellings of the immigrants, the yards and grounds 
surrounding them, the hospital and all books and registers kept in 
connection with the hospital. The Protector of Immigrants was given 
wide powers to visit all plantations on which there were indentured 
immigrants, to enquire into all complaints of and by immigrants, to 
conduct investigations and to institute prosecutions. The Ordinance 
also empowered the Government to appoint Immigration Agents to 
superintend the immigration of workers from any part or place from 
which immigrants might be introduced in Trinidad. 

Part III of the Ordinance deals with the arrival and allotment of 
indentured Indians. On arrival in Port-of-Spain, ship and immigrants 
were visited by the Protector, assisted by a Medical Officer. The Pro- 
tector was given power to allot any immigrant under the Ordinance 
for domestic or other service when all the approved applications for 
immigrants had been complied with, on the understanding that hus- 
bands were not to be separated from wives, nor minors and infants 
from their parents or natural guardians. 

Part V of the Ordinance deals with the dwellings of immigrants. 
No immigrants allotted to a plantation were to be delivered to the 
employer until the employer had furnished the Protector with any 
information required by him with regard to the dwellings to be 
assigned to such immigrants. The employer was required at all times 
to provide an immigrant under indenture upon his plantation with a 
suitable dwelling and to keep such dwelling in sufficient repair with 
its roofs water tight, and to keep the yard and grounds or a sufficient 
space around well drained, and the drains clean and in good order, 
and the yard and grounds free from bush, weeds and rubbish of every 
description. No dwelling which, in the opinion of the Surgeon 



General, was unfit for habitation, was to be assigned to any indentured 
immigrant; and except with the special permission of the Surgeon 
General, no adult was to be allowed less than 50 feet of superficial 
space, and an apartment of not less than 120 feet of superficial space 
was not to be assigned to more than three single men or to more than 
one man and one woman with not more than two children. 

Part VI of the Ordinance specified the rations that the employer 
was required to provide for his immigrants during the first twelve 
months after they were assigned to him, and prescribed that not more 
than six cents was to be deducted from the immigrant's wages for 
each day's earnings. 

Part VII deals with hospitals, requiring every plantation to which 
immigrants were assigned to maintain a hospital at the rate of at least 
four beds for not more than 40 immigrants, 5 beds for from 40 to 
70, and 10 beds for from 70 to 100, with an additional 7 per cent for 
every additional 100 immigrants after the first 100. Completely 
separate accommodation was to be afforded for male and female 
immigrants. The Ordinance empowered the Protector and the Surgeon 
General to make regulations for the management of hospitals and to 
specify the furniture, medicine, clothes and appliances which were to 
be kept in each hospital. Any employer who refused or neglected to 
send to hospital any indentured immigrant who was in need of medi- 
cal care, or who refused or neglected to provide him with the medi- 
cines, medical comforts and diet which were ordered for him, was 
liable to a penalty not exceeding $24. On the other hand, any inden- 
tured immigrant who, having entered the hospital, was found beyond 
the limits of the hospital before his discharge, or who refused or 
neglected to go to the hospital when ordered by his employer to do so, 
or who contravened the hospital regulations, or behaved himself in a 
disorderly or refractory manner while he was in hospital was liable 
to a penalty not exceeding $4.80 or to imprisonment for any term not 
exceeding 14 days. 

Part VIII of the Ordinance, the core of the Ordinance, deals with 
labour and wages. The Ordinance required the employer to provide 
every indentured immigrant with sufficient work for a full day's labour 
every day of the week except Sundays and public holidays : any immi- 
grant willing and able to work, who was not provided with work on 
any working day, was entitled to his full day's wage for every day 
on which work was not so provided. The working day was fixed at 
9 hours, with half -hour daily for eating and resting after 4 hours, 
this half -hour being included in the 9 hours. The legal daily wage 
was fixed by the Ordinance at not less than 25 cents for an able-bodied 
adult immigrant, and not less than 16 cents if he was indentured as 
other than an able-bodied adult immigrant. 

Any indentured immigrant who, without reasonable excuse, refused 
or neglected to amend any work which was not accepted because 
it had been improperly done, was liable on the first conviction to a 
maximum penalty of $4.80 or 14 days imprisonment, and on a second 


or other subsequent conviction, to a maximum penalty of $9.60 or 
one month's imprisonment. Every indentured immigrant who was 
found drunk in or about the plantation buildings, or while he was on 
the job, or during any time on which he was required to be at work, 
or who was guilty of any fraud or wilful deception in the perform- 
ance of his work, or who used abusive or insulting words or gestures 
to his employer or to any person in authority, or who was guilty of 
wilful disobedience to any lawful or reasonable order, was liable to a 
maximum penalty of $4.80 or 14 days imprisonment. Every inden- 
tured immigrant who used threatening words or gestures to his em- 
ployer or to any person in authority, or who by negligence or care- 
lessness endangered or damaged the property of his employer, or who 
hindered or molested any other immigrant in the performance of his 
work, or who persuaded or sought to persuade any other immigrant 
to refuse or absent himself or to desist from work, was liable to a 
maximum penalty of $24 or two months imprisonment. 

Part IX of the Ordinance deals with leave and desertion. Every 
indentured immigrant was bound to reside on the plantation to which 
he was indentured. Any immigrant found on a public highway or on 
any land or in any house not the property of his employer, or in any 
ship or boat within the waters of the island, could be stopped without 
warrant by the Protector of Immigrants or any person authorised in 
writing by him, or by any Estate Constable attached to the plantation 
to which the immigrant was indentured, or by the employer of the 
immigrant or his manager or overseer, and if the immigrant failed to 
produce a certificate of industrial residence or of exemption from 
labour or a ticket of leave, he could be arrested and taken to the 
nearest Police Station and detained there until he appeared before a 
Justice of the Peace. Every indentured immigrant who absented him- 
self without leave from the plantation either when he was required 
to be at work or in such manner or in such time as to constitute a 
breach of the obligation of residence, was liable, if a male, to a maxi- 
mum fine of $9.60, and if a female, to a maximum fine of $4.80. Every 
able-bodied indentured immigrant who had earned $1.25 per week 
during the two consecutive weeks, was entitled to be provided by his 
employer with a free pass for as many days as he required for leave 
of absence, provided that such leave of absence was not to exceed 
seven days at any one time or 26 days in any one year. Any inden- 
tured immigrant who absented himself for three days without leave 
from the plantation was deemed a deserter, and the manager could 
thereupon apply to the Magistrate for a warrant for his apprehension. 
Every indentured immigrant who deserted his plantation was liable to 
a maximum penalty of either $24 or two months imprisonment or to 
both such penalty and imprisonment. Any indentured male immi- 
grant absent from work without lawful excuse for twelve days in any 
one month or in any two consecutive months was deemed a habitual 
idler and was liable to imprisonment for a maximum period of three 


This was what the colonial authorities and the British Government 
called free labour. The Crown Colony system, instituted in Trinidad 
on the plausible ground that it was the best method of protecting the 
Negro slave from the sugar planters, was converted, long after the 
abolition of slavery, into a method for protecting the sugar planters 
from his indentured immigrants. The British Government appointed 
a Protector of Slaves to protect the slaves from their masters. The 
Protector of Immigrants was in effect the protector against immi- 
grants. The grand discipline of slavery and the principal incentive to 
labour was the whip. The grand discipline of the system of inden- 
ture and the principal incentive to labour was the jail. Indentured 
labour was, to paraphrase Carlyle, slavery plus a constable. 

The system of indenture was one thing where, the Ordinance of 
1899 was concerned. The reality was a horse of a different colour. 
The Ordinance spoke learnedly and with legal precision, for example, 
of the housing to be provided for the immigrants. The type of hous- 
ing provided in fact was ruthlessly exposed in a memorandum sub- 
mitted to the Royal Franchise Commission of 1888 by Mr Lechmere 
Guppy, Mayor of San Fernando, an Englishman who had resided in 
Trinidad for forty years. This is what Guppy said at the meeting of 
the Commission on July 14, 1888 : 

*As first in the list of evils which afflict the Colony, I look upon 
the system of housing the Indian Immigrants in barracks. It was 
not introduced until after Major Fagan had been dismissed and 
the subjugation of the coolie to a five years' indenture to a master 
imposed upon him by the Government had become complete. At 
the outset barracks were only built for the Indians who came un- 
accompanied by women, and free labourers were lodged as before 
in separate cottages. The first in Naparima was erected at Palmyra 
Estate, and I think that one was the first in the Island: but as the 
estates got fully supplied with coolies the cheapness of the barrack 
caused it to be adopted universally. The barrack is a long wooden 
building eleven or twelve feet wide, containing perhaps eight or 
ten small rooms divided from each other by wooden partitions not 
reaching to the roof. The roof is of galvanised iron, without any 
ceiling; and the heat of the sun by day and the cold by night take 
full effect upon the occupants. By standing on a box the occupant 
of one room can look over the partition into the adjoining one, and 
can easily climb over. A family has a single room in which to bring 
up their boys and girls if they have children. All noises and talk- 
ing and smells pass through the open space from one end of the 
barrack to the other. There are no places for cooking, no latrines. 
The men and women, boys and girls, go together into the canes or 
bush when nature requires. Comfort, privacy and decency are 
impossible under such conditions. A number of these barracks are 
grouped together close to the dwelling house of the overseers, in 
order that they may with the least trouble put them out to work 


before daylight in crop time, which they do by entering their room 
and, if necessary, pulling them off their beds where they are lying 
with their wives. If a man is sick he is not allowed to be nursed by 
his wife, he must perforce go to the hospital far away, leaving his 
wife, perhaps without the means of subsistence, in such a room as 
I have described, to her own devices, amid the temptations 
surrounding her. With all this, can any one wonder at the frequent 
wife-murders and general demoralisation amongst the Indian immi- 
grants? In fact the barrack life is one approaching to promiscuous 
intercourse. And the evil is not confined to the coolies. No decent 
black labourer can take his wife to live amongst such surround- 
ings. For very long past I have watched the spread of immorality 
among the lower classes consequent on the barrack system. At first 
the married negro who was employed in crop time on a plantation 
left his wife in San Fernando or other place where he had a cottage, 
returning to his home on Saturday night and leaving it again on 
Monday morning. Thus the husband and wife were parted for a 
week, and too often formed other relations. Mutual support and 
comfort existed no longer, the moral tie was broken and it was 
clear that marriage was a useless unmeaning clog which it is no 
shame to omit. From the estates the curse has spread to the towns. 
It is a more profitable investment to build barracks and let single 
rooms in them than to build detached cottages: and unmarried 
men and unmarried women occupy in this manner whole ranges 
of rooms. On plantations the demoralization is carried as far as it 
can go. The absentee proprietor is not there to witness the scandals. 
The overseers will tell you, as I have often been told by them, that 
they are put there to make sugar and not to look after the morals 
of coolies. The owner in England compares notes with other absen- 
tees and expects his crop to be made at the lowest rate. As to the 
means, that matters not to him. The overseer holds his situation 
subject to twenty-four or forty-eight hours' notice and to escape 
losing his place and consequent beggary he must have but one 
object in view: that of screwing the most he can out of his 

A Commission of Enquiry which was sent out by the Government 
of India to investigate the conditions of Indian immigrants in Trini- 
dad, three other British colonies and Surinam in 1913, when the in- 
dentured system was on its last legs, found the Indian population 
riddled with hookworm, debilitated by malaria, living frequently in 
swampy and insanitary surroundings, because the employer, as was to 
be brought out much later in many parts of the West Indies, 
would not provide the facilities for protecting the health of the 

The 1899 Ordinance prescribed and fixed rates of wages and a 
stipulated amount of work to be provided for each immigrant. The 
rule adopted in Trinidad was that no plantation could obtain addi- 


tional indentured immigrants where more than 15 per cent of those in 
residence had earned less than sixpence per day during the preceding 
year. The Ordinance was first put into force in 1892, whereupon it 
was found that so many plantations were affected that immigration 
would cease. Consequently, a special law was passed authorising the 
introduction of immigrants despite the ordinance. In 1895, of 69 
plantations in Trinidad utilising indentured labour, only on ten did 
the percentage of indentured immigrants earning less than sixpence 
a day fall below the 15 per cent required by law; seven of these were 
cocoa plantations. The percentage on sugar plantations was 43 for 
Usine Ste Madeleine, 30 for Caroni, 54 for Waterloo, 35 for Wood- 
ford Lodge and Brechin Castle. 

Trinidad was not unique in this respect. In British Guiana, in 1912, 
the average weekly earnings of an indentured immigrant was $1.23 in 
Demerara and Berbice, $1.14 in Essequibo. The percentage of work- 
ing days worked by each woman immigrant varied from 31 on 
Providence Plantation to 84 on Farm Plantation, both owned by the 
Demerara Company; for men from 64 on Providence Plantation to 87 
on Farm. In Surinam the Commission of the Government of India 
stated in 1915 that *the regulation entitling the employer to require 
six days' work weekly is certainly not abused. Apparently four labour- 
ers are imported to do work which would be light employment for 
three.' The male immigrants lost one-third of the working days; the 
average number of days worked in 1811 was 177. Male earnings 
amounted to 26 cents per day worked; female, 18 cents. 

The Indian immigrants lived in the shadow of the jail. In what- 
ever else the Ordinance of 1899 fell short, it certainly did not fall short 
in respect of prosecutions. In the three years 1909 to 1912, there were 
7,899 prosecutions of Indian immigrants in Trinidad. First in the list 
of offences was desertion; the number in the three-year period was 
1,668. Then came absence from work without lawful excuse -1,466 
prosecutions in the three-year period. Refusing to begin or finish work 
was the cause of 1,125 prosecutions. Vagrancy prosecutions numbered 
983. There were 603 prosecutions for neglecting to obey a lawful 
order; 412 for habitual idleness; 355 for using threatening words 
to those in authority; 346 for breach of hospital regulations; 271 for 
refusal to obey a lawful order; 255 for absence from the estate with- 
out leave; and 187 for malingering. The figures were similar for other 
offences, but 52 prosecutions were for persuading immigrants to desist 
from work and 71 for damaging the employer's property. 

In the case of 6,777 of these prosecutions, 2,009 immigrants were 
fined, 1,532 were imprisoned, 1,027 convicted and reprimanded or dis- 
charged, and 1,441 discharged for want of prosecution or want of 
evidence. In other words, one in every four immigrants charged in 
the three years was fined, and one in every five sent to jail. We have 
noted the offences for which they were fined or jailed. In these three 
years, with 7,899 prosecutions, only 9 were for threats to murder and 
only 7 were for being drunk at work; 34 involved harbouring an im- 


migrant's wife, 13 enticing away an immigrant's wife, and six involved 
an immigrant threatening his wife. 

Thus it is clear that it was the system of labour developed under 
indenture, it was the labour code itself, which produced a population 
that was always in the Magistrate's Court. No society with proper 
industrial relations would ever have tolerated the Ordinance of 1899. 

With all this, Indian indentured immigration was notoriously 
inefficient. It was inefficient in two ways. In the first place, as with 
the Negro slave before him, the indentured Indian immigrant re- 
sorted to the only weapon at his command - passive resistance. He 
simply malingered, or pretended to be sick, or went into the hospital. 
Some positively alarming statistics of the man-days lost in hospital are 
available for the West Indies. In French Guiana, in the. first six months 
of 1875, where the indentured immigrants averaged 350 a month, 
the man-days worked numbered 26,852, and the man-days lost in 
hospital 26,602; the average number of days worked by each immi- 
grant was twelve per month, while, for every day worked, one day 
was spent in the hospital. In Trinidad, in 1895, for 10,720 Indian 
immigrants, there were 23,688 admissions to hospitals. Thus each 
Indian went at least twice a year to the hospital, at the expense of the 
planter and the government. This meant, as the Surgeon-General of 
the Colony stated, a loss of 165,816 man-days of labour, or about 
8,000. Whilst the immigrant lost his wages during his hospitalisa- 
tion, the employer had to maintain him and contribute to the upkeep 
of the hospital, and he lost also the man's labour during the period. 
The manager of the Usine Ste Madeleine Sugar Company in Trini- 
dad, on the basis of the records of 1,996 indentured immigrants for 
the years 1892-1895, estimated that only 63 per cent of the 280 con- 
tract days were worked; one day in every three was lost to the 
plantations. Eleven per cent of the time was lost through sickness. 

The indentured population was a sick population. Less than 10,000 
in number, the number of cases of sickness treated in 1911 was over 
24,000. Malaria and ankylostomiasis were the chief scourges. There 
were 8,400 cases of malaria; a considerable proportion of the nearly 
6,000 cases of anaemia, parasites, skin diseases and ground itch needed 
to be added to the 1,100 cases of ankylostomiasis. The situation was 
at its worst on sugar plantations. The proportion of malaria cases to 
population was 92 on sugar plantations, 56 on cocoa estates; the com- 
bined proportion of ankylostomiasis, anaemia, parasites, and ground 
itch was 33 ton sugar plantations, 28 on cocoa estates; the proportion 
of skin diseases was 43 on sugar plantations, 17 on cocoa estates. The 
death rate on sugar plantations was half as much higher than the rate 
on cocoa estates. The venereal disease rate was much higher also on 
the sugar plantation, but the proportion of dysentery cases lower than 
on the cocoa estate. Introduced for sugar, the Indians lived and died 
by sugar. 

Much of this disease was directly traceable to the barrack system. 
The barracks in 1911 were provided with an insufficient and unsatis- 


factory water supply for drinking purposes. They leaked and were 
not watertight, and were entirely unprovided with latrines, notwith- 
standing recommendations that future allotments of immigrants should 
be made contingent upon the provision of sufficient and approved 
latrine accommodation. Another possible method of dealing with 
the problem -to reduce the incidence of infection rather than to 
improve the habits which produced it - the provision of shoes to the 
immigrants, was rejected by a commission of inquiry because of 
doubts as to whether the Indians could be persuaded to wear them 
regularly and of uncertainty as to the extent to which shoes afford 

In addition to sickness, much time was lost through desertion and 
absence without leave. On the Usine Ste Madeleine, the percentage 
from these causes was 17 -that is, one out of every six working days. 
In British Guiana, of 105,205 immigrants introduced between 1874 
and 1895, there were 13,129 desertions: one out of every eight Indians 

In the second place, indentured immigration encouraged ineffi- 
ciency on the part of the planter. Economic improvements were re- 
jected in favour of cheap manual labour living in a condition of semi- 
servitude. The sugar planters had previously rationalized their 
archaic preference for the hoe over the plough on the ground that 
the inability of the Negro to see straight rendered the use of the plough 
impossible. In 1860 implemental husbandry was unknown in St Vin- 
cent, while in 1870 the steam plough was a novelty in the British West 
Indies. In 1896 Barbados employed 42,000 workers for 65,000 acres 
under sugar cultivation. In 1848 one of the most enlightened West 
Indian planters complacently confessed that he could not understand 
why people should want to have canes which yielded twenty tons to 
the acre when they had good canes which yielded two, and it was not 
until 1886 that the first experiments in cane breeding were undertaken 
in Barbados. Technological progress in the factory was similarly 
retarded. In 1846 the British West Indies had only 12 miles of railway, 
while Cuba had 800. In 1870 there was only one factory in the British 
West Indies which had adopted the process of diffusion. In 1896 the 
Barbados crop of 40,000 tons of sugar was produced on 430 planta- 
tions, each equipped with its own factory. The average production per 
factory was slightly over 90 tons. Three-quarters of the factories were 
still run by wind power. 

One can only wonder today how it was possible for any country 
that had abolished Negro slavery on the ground that it was inhuman 
to justify Indian indenture with its 25 cents a day wage and its jails. 
The Europeans had distorted and maligned African civilisation in 
order to find an alibi for Negro slavery. In the same way they distorted 
and maligned Indian civilisation in the 19th century in order to justify 
Indian indenture. 

As the great names in Britain's intellectual history are associated 
with the distortion of African civilisation and the defamation of the 


African character, the great names of Hume, Trollope and Froude, 
so the great names in Britain's intellectual history are associated with 
the distortion of Indian civilisation and the defamation of the Indian 
character, the great names in particular of Lord Macaulay, the 
historian; and Lord Acton, the Professor of History at Cambridge 

In 1834 Lord Macaulay wrote his Minute on Indian Education, 
the British classic in the history of the depreciation of Indian cultural 
achievements. It reads as follows : 

*I have no knowledge of either Sanscrit or Arabic. But I have 
done what I could to form a correct estimate of their value. I have 
read translations of the most celebrated Arabic and Sanscrit 
works ... I am quite ready to take the Oriental learning at the valua- 
tion of the Orientalists themselves. I have never found one among 
them who could deny that a single shelf of a good European library 
was worth the whole native literature of India and Arabia . . . when 
we pass from works of imagination to works in which facts are re- 
corded and general principles investigated the superiority of the 
Europeans becomes absolutely immeasurable. It is, I believe, no 
exaggeration to say that all the historical information which has been 
collected from all the books written in the Sanscrit language is less 
valuable than what may be found in the most paltry abridgments 
used at preparatory schools in England.' 

Just as Froude had, in relation to the West Indies, presented his 
conception of the White Man's Burden in the political and cultural 
field, so Lord Acton, in the course of a review of a history of Ireland 
which was also a British Colony, presented his conception of the White 
Man's Burden insofar as it related to India. 

'. . . The Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and the Teutons are 
the only makers of history, the only authors of advancement. Other 
races ... are a negative element in the world; sometimes the barrier, 
sometimes the instrument, sometimes the materials of those races 
to whom it is given to originate and to advance. Their existence is 
either passive, or reactionary and destructive . . . The Chinese are 
a people of this kind ... So the Hindoos; being Pantheists, they 
have no history of their own but supply objects for commerce and 
for conquest ... So the Slavonians, who tell only in the mass . . . 

'Subjection to a people of a higher capacity for government is of 
itself no misfortune; and it is to most countries the condition of 
their political advancement ... A nation can obtain political 
education only by dependence on another . . .' 

What could one expect of a Colonial Governor, in the context of 
the metropolitan rubbish exported to the colonies, when these great 
British intellectuals exemplified the climate of public opinion in Eng- 
land in relation India? One is therefore not surprised to read the 
following comment of the Governor of Trinidad, Lord Harris, in the 


middle of the 19th century in which, very significantly, he lumped 
together Africans and Indians. This is what Lord Harris wrote: 

'The only independence which they would desire is idleness, 
according to their different tastes in the enjoyment of it; and the 
higher motives which actuate the European labourer , . . , that to 
be industrious is a duty and a virtue; that to be independent in 
circumstances, whatever his station, raises a man in the moral scale 
amongst his race; and that his ability to perform his duties as a 
citizen, and, we may add, as a Christian, is increased by it. These, 
and such motives as these, are unknown to the fatalist worshippers 
of Mahomet and Brahma, and to the savages who go by the names 
of Liberated Africans .... 

'After having given my best consideration to the subject, it appears 
to me that, in the first place, the immigrants must pass through an 
initiatory process; they are not, neither Africans nor Coolies, fit 
to be placed hi a position which the labourers of civilised countries 
may at once occupy. They must be treated like children - and way- 
ward ones, too - the former, from the utterly savage state in which 
they arrive; the latter, from their habits and religion/ 

This was the Governor of the colony, who played a very large part 
in the history of indentured Indian immigration, the very man who 
had said pontifically in 1848 that a race had been freed, but a society 
had not been formed. One could hardly expect the planters, obsessed 
with purely material considerations, to do better than the Governor. 

A Trinidadian, some decades later, in a general account of Trini- 
dad's geography, natural resources, administration, condition and 
prospects, described the Indians as liars, filthy in their habits, lazy 
and addicted to pilfering. Compare this with a declamation in 1512 
against the Amerindians as being arrogant, thieves, liars stupid asses, 
cowardly, dirty like pigs, and filthy in their eating habits. Compare 
the declamation against the Indians in Trinidad with a declamation 
against the Africans published in Paris in 1790 to the effect that they 
were by nature unjust, cruel, barbarous, anthropophagous, traitors, 
liars, thieves, drunkards, proud, lazy, unclean, unchaste, jealous to 
fury and cowardly. 

The West Indies must have been a very curious society which could 
have produced in 1512 against the Amerindians, in 1790 against the 
Africans, and in 1869 against the Indians exactly the same defamation 
of character of races which had no previous connection or intercourse 
and which were drawn from widely separated parts of the world. 

The same contempt for the Indians was brought out in the evidence 
of Canadian merchants before the Royal Commission on Trade 
Relations between Canada and the West Indies in 1911. This is the 
evidence of Mr J. D. Allan, member of the firm of A. A. Allan & 
Company in Toronto, and a member of the Commission from the 
Boards of Trade of Toronto, Halifax and St John, which had 
previously visited the West Indies : 


*. . . there is another point in connection with flour that is well 
worth stating. The great body of consumers in the West Indies are 
of a much lower class than the great body of consumers in Canada. 
This met us principally in our investigations at Trinidad. The rate 
of duty on everything called flour in the West Indies has been the 
same, whether it is the cheapest or the best. In this country I am 
glad to say we are rather particular along the lines of what is 
allowed as food products, far more particular than in the West 
Indies, In this Inquiry at Port-of -Spain some question arose between 
some of the people there, we had no part in it, regarding the fair- 
ness of the incidence of their specific duty on flour. We were in- 
terested in seeing how they worked that out, and one gentleman 
said: I went once to Guelph to buy some flour. Guelph is a city 
45 miles north-west of Toronto. He -continued: I was shown there 
fine brands and I was very much pleased with them, but the price 
was beyond what I could pay. The miller took me to the different 
floors of his mill and I saw on one of the floors something that he 
called mill feed. I said to him: What will you charge me a ton for 
that? A price was mentioned. I bought that and sent it to the West 
Indies and sold it as flour at a very much better rate of profit than 
I was ever able to get on any regular flour that I imported. It was 
interesting to us to hear that. But I said there is this about it - the 
same thing came up also in connection with butter and imitations 
of butter, oleomargarine - 1 said the Government of Canada does 
not allow us to adulterate any foodstuffs, and if we are going to do 
a trade with you in that way, as flour, we will either have to get 
permission to do so, we will have to lower ourselves to your level 
of civilisation, and that was all that we said. 

*. . . We were shown butter called Morlaix that is very much 
consumed. When they said: Can you compete with this? I looked 
at the stuff and it looked as if it was mixed with yellow ochre. I 
said: No I should be sorry to see us making up anything of such 
a low nature ... 

*. . . So far as the textile stuffs were concerned we examined them 
in one or two places, and I came to the conclusion that the class 
of textiles used for the coloured and coolie trade was of so low a 
nature that we would probably never participate in that trade. It 
was simply the lowest kind of material, and I wondered at people 
buying it at all.* 

The question now inevitably arises. Was Indian immigration 

In the opinion of Sir Henry Alcazar, Mayor of Port-of -Spain, it 
was not necessary. In a memorandum presented to the West Indian 
Royal Commission of 1897, on February 28, 1897, he had this to say: 

Tt must be granted, however, that as far as quality is concerned 
the sugar planters are the worst served of all employers. This is due 
to two causes. First the treatment on most estates is such that no 


man of any spirit will submit to it unless pressed by most dire 
necessity. Next, while the rate of pay in other occupations was up 
to quite lately Is. 8d. and upwards, the sugar planter offers Is. 0d. 
Under such circumstances it is not strange that preference is as a 
rule given to other occupations and that men in the employment of 
sugar planters leave them as soon as they find an opening elsewhere. 
It will be ascertained on inquiry that almost every complaint on 
the part of the sugar planters that Creole labour is unreliable, may 
be traced to the fact of their labourers having thus left to better 
themselves, while even the worst employers have seldom met with 
any serious difficulty in filling the places so left vacant. 

'Wages have during the last 30 years risen all over the civilised 
world. Even in ultra conservative India there has been a marked 
increase, as Lord Roberts not long ago reminded us. In Trinidad 
and the West Indies generally wages have, during the same period, 
fallen greatly, in some occupations by fully one-half, on an average 
certainly not less than 25 per cent. No doubt the price of sugar has 
also fallen considerably, but so has the price of iron, of wheat, and 
of every staple product of the very countries in which there has 
been a rise. I am justified therefore in contending that the fall in 
Trinidad is due, not to unavoidable economic causes, but to the 
operation of a system which places absolute command of the labour 
market in the hands of the employers. As far as the workers are 
concerned, industry is thus kept artificially in a constant state of 
extreme depression. 

To these baneful material results must be added still more de- 
plorable moral effects. It is recognised that by making him brutally 
callous to the rights of others and blunting his moral sense gener- 
ally, slavery does at least as much harm to the slave owner as to 
the slave himself. Now, however akin to slavery the coolie's inden- 
ture may seem, it has on him no marked degrading effect, because 
what above all demoralizes the slave is the hopelessness of his lot, 
while the coolie knows that at the end of his five years he must be 
set free. On his employer, however, the effect is much more similar 
to that of slavery, for if one-fifth of his bondsmen are set free every 
year, a fresh fifth at once take their place, and he has thus per- 
manently about him a large number of his fellow men bound to 
do his bidding under penalty of imprisonment. In fact, with regard 
to its effect on the employer, the system is not very different from 
slavery, with the gaol substituted for the whip. And one of the worst 
consequences of Indian immigration in Trinidad has been to keep 
its educated classes at the moral level of slave owners.' 

Alcazar attacked the system of indentured immigration on the 
ground that it was semi-servitude, and his arguments were essentially 
the same as those advanced by Sewell. Guppy attacked it on the 
ground that it was a mistake in the first place to give priority to sugar 
production, that the priority should have been given to cocoa instead, 


and that cocoa did not require indentured immigrants. This was what 
he said in evidence before the Royal Commission of 1888: 

'But it is said that Lord Harris, by means of Indian Immigration, 
saved the Colony. For years and years, as the ground of any argu- 
ment in favour of making the general tax-payers support Indian 
Immigration for the purposes of the sugar planters, I have been 
asked to admit that this Immigration saved the Colony. I have 
always replied, "I do not admit it. First, tell me who or what you 
mean by the Colony? and next who and what was saved?" Those 
questions remained unanswered to this day. In fact Trinidad never 
required a "saviour". That title is indeed usually assumed by 
destroyers, or given to them by their interested partisans. 

The fertile soil and favourable climatic conditions of Trinidad 
have saved her throughout the unceasing depredations and mis- 
government which she has undergone at the hands of her "saviour." 
Montserrat is a proof of this. Without any capital beyond the earn- 
ings of their daily labour, not only without any assistance from 
authority, but in disregard of the Proclamations and denunciations 
of Governors and Attorneys-General and Magistrates, the squatter- 
pioneers carried their axes beyond the domain of the sugar planters 
into the trackless forest, and there, not only raising from the soil 
their daily subsistence but patiently and laboriously striving for 
future wealth, by planting cocoa trees, for the fruit of which they 
had to await many years, they laid the foundations of one of the most 
beautiful, most productive and most valuable Districts of the Island.' 

Guppy was adamant that, instead of sugar saving the colony, sugar 
had ruined it and by sugar he meant the control of the sugar planters 
in the Crown Colony legislature which was responsible not the people 
of Trinidad but to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. As one in- 
dication of the price that the colony had had to pay for sugar cultiva- 
tion, which was the justification of Indian indentured immigration, he 
cited the Trinidad Government Railway. For many years in the recent 
past great concern has been expressed, and quite rightly, about the 
expensiveness of the Railway, and a great argument has developed as to 
whether it should be preserved at all. It is useful for us to remember the 
origin of this question, as stated in caustic terms by Mr Guppy in 1888: 

The absence of beneficial control, in the general interest of the 
Island, is shown in nothing more than in the Railway system as 
adopted. We have had forced upon us a line which can never be 
so useful or so remunerative as if it had been run some miles to the 
eastward in the interior. In neglect of warnings and for the benefit 
of a few favoured sugar planters, the line has been run along the 
coast where sea-borne craft come into competition with it and 
through a series of barren lands, bordering on unhealthy swamps 
which forbid Europeans and offer no inducements for Africans or 
Indians to settle on them. The result of the blunders made in this 
line, and in the great cost and uselessness of the line joining the 


Williamsville Station with Princes Town, has been that the interior 
of the Island which it was most desirable to reach, remains untapped, 
and the Government is powerless to continue the work.' 

Dr de Boissiere, a third opponent of the indentured system, argued 
in 1890 not now that indenture was semi-servitude, not now that sugar 
should never have been given priority, but rather that the labour 
should have been sought not in India but in Barbados. He wrote: 

'History will pen a terrible indictment of neglect against the 
administration of the last 30 years for not having organized a system 
by which this natural and free Immigration, involving as it does 
scarcely any cost, would have been taken advantage of, and efforts 
made to retain it.' 

The Barbadian, however, would as soon accept a contract as slavery. 
But de Boissiere had a powerful argument. The real paradox of Indian 
immigration is that it coincided with an even larger wave of Negro 
emigration. Thousands of labourers, not only from Barbados, but also 
from Jamaica, emigrated to the Panama Canal, to the banana planta- 
tions of Costa Rica, to the United States, and, disproving the argu- 
ment that the West Indian would not cultivate sugar, to the sugar 
plantations of Cuba. In 1913, Jamaica emigration totalled 15,096- 
1,510 to Cuba, 9,728 to Panama, 2,313 to Costa Rica. From 1901 to 
1917, the net emigration from Jamaica amounted to 24,643, to which 
must be added 60,200 West Indians who emigrated to the United 
States -a total of 84,843. During the same period the net immigration 
from India into British Guiana and Trinidad -subtracting repatriates 
from immigrants - was 24,260. As many Indians came in as West 
Indians left Jamaica, Remittances received through the Barbadian Post 
Office in the years 1900, 1901, 1906, 1907, 1909 and 1910 from Barba- 
dians abroad totalled 515,934 in money orders and registered letters; 
in the year 1910, 93,361 was remitted in money orders alone, 66,162 
from the Canal Zone, 15,078 from the United States, and 12,518 
from British Colonies. This compares with the remittances from 
Indians to India between 1890 and 1912 totalling 65,187 from 
Trinidad and 52,975 from British Guiana. 

Thus, for every Indian added to the British West Indian labour 
force before World War I, three West Indians were subtracted. For 
every pound sent out of the West Indies by Indians, seventeen were 
sent in by Barbadians alone. 

By the turn of the century, five years after the consolidated 
Immigration Ordinance of 1899, which gave the impression that 
Indian immigration would continue in Trinidad until the end of time, 
the argument ceased to be whether Barbados could supply the neces- 
sary labour instead of India, but became whether there was any 
shortage of labour at all. Sir Henry Alcazar, Mr Lechmere Guppy 
and Dr de Boissiere were all white men, directly engaged or connected 
through their familes with agriculture. The fourth great opponent of 
indentured Indian immigration in Trinidad was neither a white man 


nor a planter. He was a Negro lawyer, Prudhomme David, a 
Nominated Member of the Crown Colony Legislative Council. Year 
after year Mr David, in a minority of one as he was wont to say, 
opposed the annual vote for immigration. This was the speech of Mr 
David on Monday, November 7, 1904 in the Legislative Council as 
reported in Hansard. 

The Honourable C. P. David said, as this motion was postponed 
on the last occasion it was brought forward, at his instance, he thought 
it right that he should address a few remarks to the Council stating 
in some detail his reasons for opposing it. He was about, therefore, to 
address a few remarks to that Council explaining the grounds upon 
which he objected to the motion which had just been introduced. The 
Hon. The Protector of Immigrants had described this as a formal 
matter, and from the tone of his remarks he had evidently imagined 
that the motion would be carried as a matter of course. Perhaps he 
was right, as motions of that kind had been carried annually with 
perfect regularity for a series of years, and he was bound to confess 
that although he offered some opposition to the resolution, he had no 
hope whatever of convincing a Council, composed as that Council 
was, that his view of the matter was right and that the common view 
of the matter was wrong. No one considering the matter from a broad 
point of view could, however, fail to be struck by the anomaly of a 
Colony like Trinidad -a purely agricultural Colony with a large 
agricultural population - spending annually a large sum of money 
for the purpose of importing labour from such a distance from Trini- 
dad as India is. A step of that kind could only be justified by stren- 
uous necessity, and he had no doubt that, if the Government were 
to be persuaded that there did not exist a real demand for labour in 
this Colony, the Government would feel that an expenditure of this 
kind was not justifiable. The question, therefore, was largely one of 
whether there does or does not exist in the Colony a supply of labour 
sufficient for the needs of all classes of employers. The planters of 
the Colony - the sugar planters, and, more lately the cocoa planters - 
had, he was aware, been constantly representing that there was not 
in the Colony itself a supply of labour sufficient for their needs, and 
that their prosperity, nay the very life of their industry, depended upon 
the importation of these labourers from India. He would like to see 
the Government make good that assertion of the planters by some- 
thing like an independent enquiry into the matter. In his opinion it 
was not sufficient for the Government in that easy fashion to go on 
year after year listening to what he might describe as interested cries 
for more labour, and at the same time not taking the steps which would 
establish clearly, not only to the Government and the sugar planters 
themselves, but to members of the public connected with other indus- 
tries -the persons called upon to subscribe to the establishment of 
these immigrants in the colony -that this scarcity or deficiency which 
the planters declare to exist, and which could be the only raison d'etre 


of the policy of the Government with regard to the labour question 
really existed. Now he said that the time had come when there should 
be a change; that the supply of labour in the colony was not short of 
the legitimate demands of the employers of labour, and he said, 
moreover, that the cry of scarcity rested upon only this foundation - 
that the planters by means of this artificial means of drawing their 
labour supply from India had grown so much accustomed to paying 
a low rate of wage, that the real fact of the matter was not that there 
was a scarcity of labour but that they could not get that labour on 
account of the insufficiency of the remuneration they had grown 
accustomed to pay and, therefore, would not like a change. He took 
it that was what the whole question hinged upon, and he thought the 
Government would be wanting in its duty if it did not institute an 
independent enquiry for the purpose of dissecting this demand which 
was constantly being made by the planters of their being a scarcity 
of labour in the Colony, in support of his argument he would appeal 
to the experience of persons not connected with the industries of sugar 
or cocoa. To begin with they never found the Government complain- 
ing of any difficulty in obtaining labour. They found large enterprises 
being carried out by the Public Works Department, the Railway 
Department and other departments in the Colony, and they never 
heard that these departments experienced any difficulty in getting the 
requisite quantity of labour for their enterprises. They saw again com- 
panies and firms not connected with agriculture carrying out enter- 
prises, not so large perhaps as those carried out by the Government, 
but in themselves very important - the establishment of the electric 
tramways, telephones on a large scale over the island - they saw enter- 
prises of that kind being carried out by private firms without any 
allegation being ever heard that any difficulty presented itself on 
account of the deficiency in the supply of labour. The cry of insuffi- 
ciency of labour was confined to the sugar planters, the cocoa planters 
and those engaged in the pursuit of agriculture, and these people alone 
were they who were saying that they could not get the resident 
population to work, and he suggested that, if they experienced any 
difficulty, it was not because the labourers were not forthcoming, but 
because the sugar planters had got so accustomed to being able to 
procure this class of cheap, artificial agricultural labourers and to pay- 
ing such low wages because of the existence of this immigration 
system, because they could get from general revenue a contribution 
towards importing labourers all the way from India, because the law 
of the Colony fixed a low remuneration to the labourers so imported, 
and not wishing to deprive themselves of the advantages to be derived 
from such a system they continued to assert that there was not a suffi- 
cient supply of labour on the spot for their various requirements. Not 
long ago they saw that one of the Honourable Members of that 
Council started an enquiry with reference to the needs of the planters 
with a view to getting information about this question, and no doubt 
some of them had read the interesting letter of one who until recently 


was a member of that Council -he referred to the Hon. Charles 
Leotaud, a gentleman who had large cocoa interests in the Colony 
and whose family was largely interested in cocoa and who had many 
opportunities of familiarising himself with the state of the labour 
market. In answer to a letter of inquiry addressed to him by a member 
of this Council Mr Leotaud stated - and was good enough to publish 
his reply - that he, a large employer of labour, did not suffer from any 
scarcity of labour; neither did his sons nor the estates which were 
entrusted to his management. The Hon. Member who had addressed 
Mr Leotaud and who was present at that Board as he spoke had not 
up till now given the public the benefit of the results of his enquiry. 
But, whatever these results might be, he thought the Council ought 
to attach some importance to the statement of such a large employer 
of labour as Mr Leotaud, and when he said that in his particular 
department he could not complain of any want of labour he thought 
they might fairly presume that many other employers were in the 
same position, and that itself ought to suggest the desirability of an 
enquiry as to whether there really existed a bona fide demand for 
labour on the part of the planters of this colony. He had said that 
Trinidad was a country peopled almost entirely by agricultural 
labourers. The last census taken in 1902 gave the number of agri- 
cultural labourers in the Colony at nothing less than 62,946. The 
report of the Hon. The Protector of Immigrants himself gave the 
number of Indian Immigrants at over 94,000 and it was an undoubted 
fact that the majority of these were nothing but agricultural labourers 
and did it not strike one as being curious that in face of these figures 
there should still be demand for more labourers?' 

These were the arguments against the system of indentured Indian 
immigration. It is necessary to emphasise that not one single argument 
was based on racial considerations. The argument was rather that 
thousands of labourers had been brought in from a distant country, 
where labourers might have been obtained closer at hand, in order 
solely to maintain and develop the sugar industry, and that these 
labourers were brought in because, in the opinion of the sugar planters, 
they, more than any other group of workers, could be kept in a con- 
dition of semi-servitude and compelled to accept sub-human wages 
and living conditions; and all this was at the expense not of the sugar 
planter but of the general community, which had to subsidise this 
system of semi-servitude. 

One could well understand the strong feelings on the subject 
expressed by the agriculturists who did not produce sugar. Forty per 
cent of the indentured Indians worked on sugar plantations and 
merely five per cent on cocoa and coconut estates; yet, between 1881 
and 1885, the Legislative Council, dominated by the sugar planters, 
reduced the export duty which was levied to finance in part the cost 
of the immigration system from 80 to 60 per cent on sugar, whilst on 
cocoa it was raised from 20 to 37 per cent. 


Indian indentured immigration was thus in the final analysis a 
political question, from which the chief beneficiaries were the English 
sugar interests in the colony. In 1896, there were 56 sugar plantations 
in Trinidad of which 36 were owned by non-residents. Eight of these 
were owned by the colonial Company in England and five by W. F. 
Burnley and Co. The average sugar estate exceeded 500 acres in size 
as compared with the average cocoa estate, which was from 10 to 
50 acres. Trinidad's exports of sugar increased from 10,334 tons in 
1833 to 53,847 tons in 1896. 

It is quite wrong, however to say that the contribution of the 
Indians to Trinidad was that sugar exports were five times as much 
as they were in 1833. The price that the community had to pay for 
this increase in 1836 in sugar production was semi-servitude, sub- 
human wages, the degradation of labour, and the perpetuation of the 
Crown Colony system of Government. The Indian contribution to 
Trinidad society and Trinidad economy was of a totally different 
nature. It was that, in the age-old battle which the planter had fought 
against the small farmer, the sugar planter who had defeated the small 
white farmer, who had prevented the emancipated Negro slave from 
becoming a small farmer, that same sugar planter had to compromise 
with the Indian indentured immigrant, and in the social sense the 
outstanding result of indentured Indian immigration was the emer- 
gence, for the first time in the history of Trinidad, of a class of small 

This was not because the sugar planters liked small farming any 
more after 1833 than they liked it before 1833. It was not because 
they liked the Indian indentured immigrant any more than they liked 
the emancipated Negro slave. It was a simple question of finance, and 
it applied not only in Trinidad but also in British Guiana and Surinam. 

In 1850 the Combined Court of British Guiana protested against 
the stipulation of a return passage at the expense of the colony as a 
part of the immigration contract. In 1852 the Governor of Trinidad 
stated that the prospect of returning home at an early period had a 
tendency to unsettle the immigrants, and he, too, regretted the 
requirement of a return passage. Up to 1924, the number of Indians 
who returned home from British Guiana was 67,320, or a proportion 
of more than one out of every four who had been introduced. In Trini- 
dad, the number who returned was 27,853 - about one out of every 
six who had been introduced. Thus, of 383,000 Indians introduced 
into both colonies, 95,173, or more than one-quarter, had returned 
home by 1924. For every four immigrants, therefore, five free passages 
had to be found. The two-way traffic reached a point where the 
number of workers who departed annually exceeded those who were 
introduced. In 1905, for example, 2,704 Indians came to British 
Guiana on contract; 2,726 departed. In 1897, arrivals numbered 
1,194; departures 1,529. In 1904, 1,314 arrived; 1,625 departed. It was 
a most expensive method of recruiting labour. 

Consequently, the colonies made every effort to induce the inden- 



tured workers to renew their contract, or, at least, to remain at the 
end of their term. With reindenture, they were unsuccessful. Reinden- 
tures numbered 6,096 in British Guiana from 1874 to 1895; new 
arrivals totalled 105,205. For every 100 who came, only six who had 
served their term agreed to a renewal. In the three years 1903-1905, 
reindentures aggregated 133 in Surinam, one-tenth of the new arrivals 
in 1902. The governments then tried inducements to remain. The chief 
inducement was a grant of land. Between 1891 and 1913, in British 
Guiana, a total of 31,917 acres was granted to 844 Indians as free 
grants or homestead grants, with restrictions on alienation for a period 
of ten years. In 1898-1899 the number of acres thus granted was 
5,922; in 1903-1904, 95 Indians received grants. In addition, 201 
leases, involving 10,957 acres, were issued from 1991 to 1913. The 
value of landed property held by Indians in British Guiana was 
assessed at $972,761 in 1911-1912; in that year Indians owned 13,384 
head of cattle and 3,022 sheep and goats. 

In Surinam, between 1903 and 1911, over 200,000 acres of land 
were allotted to 3,068 immigrants, either in free use, in lease, or by 
outright purchase; six out of every ten acres were purchased out- 
right, at a total cost of 589,184 florins. In Trinidad, between 1885 and 
1895, a total of 22,916 acres was sold to Indian immigrants; between 
1902 and 1912, 4,450 grants, totalling 31,766 acres, were distributed, 
the Indians paying 72,837 for them, or over $9.60 an acre. 

It will be recalled that in 1841 the Trinidad planters had protested 
loudly against any disposal of Crown land in quantities of less than 
320 acres. That Indians receiving wages of 25 cents a day could buy 
any land at all is a tribute to their well-known capacity for thrift. The 
number of Indian depositors in the Government Savings Bank in 
Trinidad increased from 5,646 in 1902 to 9,973 in 1912, and the 
amount deposited each year rose from 59,725 to 81,403. 

Thus by a curious irony, the sugar planter who, in the seventeenth 
and eighteenth centuries, refused to grant land to the white indentured 
servant, who, after emancipation, tried to prevent the purchase of 
land by the former slaves, found himself obliged in the 19th century 
to grant land to the indentured immigrant in order to reduce the ex- 
pense of immigrant labour. Indian immigration, designed to compete 
with the Negro landowners, ended in the establishment of a class of 
Indian landowners. 

But the greatest victory of the Indians was that they established 
their right themselves to grow cane. The planters who had brought 
in Indian workers at public expense in order to make sure that sugar 
would remain a plantation industry, were compelled fifty years later 
to recognise the very Indian immigrants as small producers of cane. 
The quantity of canes purchased from cane farmers in Trinidad in- 
creased from 35,459 tons in 1895 to 75,262 tons in 1896. In 1896 this 
production came from 3,712 cane farms. Of these cane farms, there 
were 73 at Woodford Lodge, 59 at Aranguez, 1,236 at Usine Ste 
Madeleine, 550 at Reform, 94 at Brechin Castle, 29 at Caroni. The 


highest quantity purchased from any one farmer was 605 tons on the 
estate belonging to Sir Charles Tennant. The smallest quantity was 
4 cwt. produced by a cane farmer on Lothian's estate. 

Thus it was that the Indian indentured immigrant was able to raise 
in Trinidad one of the fundamental questions posed by the West 
Indian sugar industry - that is, whether sugar cultivation required 
the combination of ownership of land and factory in the same hands, 
or would, certainly for social reasons, possibly also on grounds of 
superior economy, be better organised on the basis of a distinct separa- 
tion of the ownership of land from ownership of the factory, of the 
cultivation of the cane from the manufacture of the sugar. The ques- 
tion was posed by Victor Schoelcher in the report which prepared the 
way for emancipation in the French islands, and Schoelcher came 
out openly for the separation of cultivation and manufacture. The 
problem has also been familiar to the Spanish areas, Cuba and Puerto 
Rico, where much of the difficulty attendant on the development of 
the sugar industry in the 20th century has revolved around the inva- 
sion of large-scale American capital not only producing the sugar in 
gigantic factories, but also expropriating the native Cuban and Puerto 
Rican peasantry. On a much smaller scale this distinct emergence of 
the cultivator of canes as a separate class in the society was a familiar 
phenomenon in the 19th century history of St Lucia and Tobago, 
where it was known as the metairie system. 

The Indian cane farmer in Trinidad, cultivating cane on a small 
plot of land which he had been allowed to buy in exchange for 
a return passage to India, represented a challenge in Trinidad to the 
traditional method of production in the British sugar colonies in the 
West Indies. To that extent the indentured Indian immigrant, the last 
victim in the historical sense of the sugar plantation economy, con- 
stituted one of the most powerful social forces for the future in the 
struggle for the establishment of a proper social structure and modern 
industrial relations. 


Colonialism in Tobago in the 
19th Century 

We have already seen how Tobago in the 19th Century lived in a state 
of betweenity, buffeted about from pillar to post, changing national 
flags and political allegiance. By the beginning of the 19th century 
it had passed finally into British hands, but Trinidad and Tobago, 
18 miles apart, remained separate British colonies not related one to 
the other, until in 1889 the Governments of the two Islands were 
amalgamated, to be followed in 1899 by the Act of Union which made 
the two islands one single colony. We must now turn our attention 
therefore to the tribulations which Tobago suffered in the course of 
this transformation whereby an island which at the beginning of the 
19th century had supported Bonaparte's dictatorship in France became 
at the end of that century a Ward of the Crown Colony of Trinidad. 

The history of Tobago in the 19th century is the story of a steady 
economic decline and of the absurdity of self-governing institutions 
in an island of some 12,000 people. 

The slave economy in Tobago was completely bankrupt at the time 
of emancipation in 1834. As an example may be taken the income 
and expenditure of a plantation in 1822 which contained 250 slaves, 
which may be regarded as representative of all the plantations in the 
island. The expenses of the operations - including salaries of attorney, 
manager, three overseers, and doctor, purchases of clothes, medicines, 
staves, lumber and salted fish, and the slave tax of 31 shillings per 
head -amounted to 4,345 10s. in Tobago currency. The sale of the 
plantation products, 100 hogsheads of sugar and 60 puncheons of rum 
amounted to 3,400. The plantation therefore suffered a loss of 
945 10s., exclusive of the interest on the mortgage and the debts due 
in England. 

Thus it was that the House of Assembly of Tobago, could state in 
a petition to the Parliament of Great Britain on January 17, 1823 : 

'This Colony has now arrived at a pitch of distress of a deeper 
nature than we can possibly detail. It is a fact we earnestly submit 
to the serious consideration of your Honourable House, that there 
are few, if any estates, now in this Colony, which make any profit- 
able return to their owners. The crops of very many of them, indeed, 
in spite of the utmost retrenchment possible in their expenditure 
and of every effort to increase both the quantity and quality of 
their produce have not been sufficient to pay their Colonial Taxes, 
and the price of their supplies, leaving the holders of mortgages on 
them without any payment, even of Interest, and their proprietors 



without any Income, while the very cultivation of other estates is 
only carried on by the continued sacrifice of additional capital. 
Nor is the evil likely to be of a local or temporary prevalence; on 
the contrary, we fear that under the present system it will and must 
extend till it attains its consummation in general ruin.' 

The economic difficulties of the planters were intensified after 
emancipation. As everywhere else in the West Indies, the emancipated 
slaves preferred to set up on their own small plots of land as peasant 
proprietors. The planters, like their colleagues in other islands, con- 
templated a new labouring population through immigration. The 
general economic problem was aggravated by a disastrous hurricane 
which hit the island on the night of Monday, October 11, 1847. The 
hurricane appears to have tracked from south west to north east, 
taking within its sweep the northern part of the island of Trinidad, 
and proceeding in full force to Tobago. The devastation amounted to 
26 persons killed on the night of the hurricane, 30 estate dwelling 
houses and 26 sugar factories demolished, 31 estate dwelling houses 
and 33 sugar factories damaged, 456 labourers's cottages razed to the 
ground and 176 severely damaged, 126 houses of all descriptions 
blown down in Scarborough and 84 severely damaged. The entire 
roof of the barracks at Fort George was blown away and some of the 
walls thrown to the ground. The estimate of the private property 
destroyed was $720,000. 

This tremendous disaster intensified the demand of the planters 
for immigrants in order to proceed with the work of rehabilitation 
and reconstruction. As in Trinidad, their tastes were catholic. The 
immigration schemes proposed included the importation of labourers 
from England and Europe, English convicts, Barbadians, Africans 
from Sierra Leone, Indians and emancipated slaves and free people 
of colour from the United States of America. In 1846, 600 labourers 
emigrated from Barbados to Tobago and the House of Assembly of 
Tobago voted 2,000 sterling for immigration purposes. In January, 
1860 the House of Assembly requested an imperial guarantee of a 
loan of 30,000 sterling to be employed in bringing Indian immigrants 
to Tobago. The British Government took the view that since the rate 
of wages in Tobago was 16 cents a day, nearly 25 per cent less than 
in Barbados, and about 50 per cent less than in British Guiana and 
Trinidad, no immigrants could be authorised until the minimum rate 
of wages was raised to 24 cents a day. 

An Act of the Legislature of May 15, 1861, made provision for 
African immigrants who had been captured by British cruisers from 
ships prosecuting the slave trade. On arrival the immigrants were to 
be lodged in comfortable houses, and given a year's clothing, an iron 
pot, a spoon, a common clasp knife in the case of a man, one pound 
of soap per month, and one pound of tobacco. Each African over 
fourteen years of age was to be granted a quarter of an acre of land 
for the cultivation of ground provisions. The rate of wages was fixed 


at 16 cents a day, which a Chief Justice of the Island, Henry Wood- 
cock, in his little book The History of Tobago published in 1867, 
justified on the ground that the Negro *is of an enduring nature; he 
can bear long abstinence, eats sparingly, and is sustained chiefly on 
vegetable food.' In this way Tobago, which had received 292 captured 
Africans from St Helena in 1851, received a further shipment from 
the same place of 225 Africans in 1862. The term of service was three 
years. With this increment to the population, the census of April 1861 
showed a total of 15,410 inhabitants, an increase of 1,032 over the 
1851 census. 

But Tobago's economy could not really have stood the strain of 
a large scale immigration of workers, and everyone knew that. The 
population was much too small to include any substantial number of 
small farmers, who could have been made to finance, as in Trinidad, 
a part of the cost of persons deliberately introduced to compete with 
them. Thus many of the planters were compelled to fall back on a 
system which had become very popular after the hurricane of 1847 
when the plantation owners had neither the capital nor the workers 
to develop their plantations and nobody in England seemed anxious 
to buy plantations in Tobago. That system was the Metairie system. 

Under the Metairie system, which was an old and well-known 
custom in many parts of the Continent of Europe and had been 
brought to the West Indies to such territories as St Lucia and 
Antigua, a landowner who had not enough money to carry on the 
cultivation by wage labour, agreed with his workers that they should 
work without wages on the promise of sharing the crop with the 
owner. This system continued to spread in Tobago and to work fairly 
well until 1884, when another disaster hit the islands and the West 
Indies generally. That was the bankruptcy of the London firm of 
Gillespie Brothers, on whom more than half the Tobago sugar estates 
depended for supplies and advances. 

This was the situation when on February 10, 1890, shortly after 
Tobago's association with Trinidad, the Chief Justice of Trinidad, Sir 
John Gorrie, delivered one of the most famous judgments in the social 
history of the West Indies. 

The plaintiff in the case, Joseph Franks, was a metayer on Castara 
Estate, the property of the defendant, R. B. Anderson. The plaintiff, 
73 years of age, was born in slavery on the estate, and had been a 
metayer growing canes for 45 years, drawing in addition wages as 
the estate carpenter until 1886. Anderson quite suddenly decided to 
charge rent for Franks' provision ground against the terms of his 
agreement as a metayer, and to stop his wages as a carpenter, and 
ultimately turned him off the estate by a simple notice to quit. Franks 
thereupon sued Anderson for damages. 

Sir John Gorrie in his celebrated judgment emphasised that the 
metairie system had developed after emancipation in Tobago under 
the pressure of two causes. The first was the fear that the emancipated 
Negroes would abandon the estates and seek other occupations. The 


second was the fear that the protection which West Indian sugar had 
enjoyed in the British market would soon cease, and that something 
had to be done to make the working of estates cheaper in view of the 
heavy fall in the price of sugar as a result of the competition with 
foreign slave-grown sugar. Hence the metairie system developed in 
Tobago, the share of the crop going to the owner being one-half as 
compared with one-third in Antigua. 

The Chief Justice concluded that an arrangement of that nature 
raised the actual cultivator of the soil into a very different position 
from that of a mere labourer. He had become a contributor to a com- 
mon fund with the proprietor and shared with him the profits or loss 
of the enterprise. The Chief Justice continued: 

'So in Tobago, if there is any soul of goodness in the Metairie 
system it is because the number of the metayers who have under- 
taken to grow sugar for themselves and the estates gives a value to 
the property, and becomes a source of credit by which sufficient 
means can be raised to tide over the out-of-crop season until the 
cane has become ripe and has been made into sugar.' 

As the Chief Justice understood the system, there was no time 
specified for the determination of the arrangement, no term expressed 
for the agreement coming to an end as both parties desired it to con- 
tinue so long as the conditions are fulfilled. If either the proprietor 
could cut short the arrangement by a notice to quit or the metayer 
could get rid of his obligations by a similar notice to the proprietor, 
the whole value of the system would have been destroyed. In other 
words, as Sir John Gorrie put it, 'if it be good for the proprietor to 
have his metayers assured to him for the purpose of raising money 
to work with, it is equally good for the metayer to have fixity of tenure, 
because otherwise there would be no inducement to him to lay out 
his labour and sweat upon another man's land without wages, and 
only on the precarious chance of reaping the sugar from a year or 
two's labour.' 

Thus did Sir John Gorrie arrive at the determination of the issue 
placed before him, the notice to quit issued by the defendant to the 
plaintiff on January 29, 1889. Sir John Gorrie's judgment was as 
follows : 

*It is clear to me the defendant had no right to give that notice. 
Whether the metairie agreement between the proprietor and the 
metayer may involve a lien on the land for the purposes of the con- 
tract, so as to require to be marked on a Certificate of Title under 
the new Real Property Ordinance, or does not, it is, at all events, 
far too serious and important an arrangement, and goes much too 
deeply into the lot of individuals and families, the prosperity of 
estates, and the safety of the fund of credit by which the whole 
agricultural resources of a province are fed and stimulated, to per- 
mit one party or the other to bring it to an end at their own will 


and pleasure. There is no provision in the custom for a termination, 
nor for any notice. There are obligations on both sides, and if these 
obligations are systematically disregarded, it would give the sufferer 
by the fault the right to come to this Court for redress, and if 
desired, to require that the arrangement as between him and the 
wrong-doer might be dissolved, whether that wrong-doer were the 
proprietor or metayer. Damages, moreover, can be recovered in this 
Court for isolated and specific breaches of the agreement, which 
might not amount to such a continuous abuse as to warrant an eject- 
ment on the one side, or a freeing from the trammels or metayer- 
ship on the other. But it does not lie in the hands of one party or the 
other to determine this for themselves, and to terminate at will a 
contract which, in its nature, is one of continuance while the con- 
ditions are fulfilled. This being the case it is not necessary to go into 
the miserable allegations which the defendant has made against 
this poor, broken-down old man of 73 years of age, whose best 
days from the age of 28 until now have been given to the cultivation 
of the estate of Castara. Even were all he alleges true, it is for a 
Court of competent jurisdiction to decide upon them. I do not envy 
the state of mind of that man who could come into a Court 
of Justice and ask without a blush that the Court should use its 
power to punish an old man for the frailties of old age, and to throw 
out on the roads perhaps the one only person on the estate who had 
such ample titles to be treated with consideration and respect,* 

A Daniel come to judgment! The defendant had not only forced 
the plaintiff to leave his land which he held as a metayer by a notice 
to quit which he had no right to give, but he had also for some years 
been charging the plaintiff rent for his provision ground. He claimed 
that the plaintiff had agreed to this. Sir John Gorrie refused to accept 
this argument. In his opinion, as the security of tenure was one of the 
mainstays of the Metairie system, one of its greatest defects was its 
lack of pliability and adaptability to the wants of the hour. The sub- 
sidiary conditions of the contract could be changed by mutual 
consent, but if any substantial change in the conditions of the arrange- 
ment were desired, such, for example, as a change from cane to 
bananas, it would, in the Chief Justice's opinion, be necessary to come 
to the Court where all parties would be heard and the change, if agreed 
upon or decided, would be judicially sanctioned and recorded. But in 
all instances of smaller changes, mutual consent would have to be 
clearly proved. The Chief Justice continued: 

'Now here the defendant, wishing to alter one of the main con- 
ditions of the arrangement which had endured forty-five years, the 
burden of proof of the mutuality of the consent to such an altera- 
tion must be on him. In those cases which frequently occur when 
consent is alleged on the part of one who is too young to govern 
well his own affairs or a female not conversant with affairs, or any 
one in the power of another, or any very old or weak person, or 


any one enfeebled by disease, or a very rustic and ignorant person, 
and in various others, a Court of Law will take special care to be 
advised that the consent of such a person was perfectly free and 

The defendant had taken the case to the Magistrate's Court, and 
it was against the Magistrate's decision that the plaintiff appealed to 
the Chief Justice. The Chief Justice denied that the Magistrate had 
any jurisdiction to entertain a question of this kind. Its importance 
could not be measured by the sum of $48.00, which was the limit of 
the Magistrate's civil jurisdiction. The issue involved was a question of 
the plaintiff's privilege as a metayer on the Castara Estate, and no 
Magistrate had jurisdiction to try a question so serious and so mixed 
up with questions affecting real estate. 

The Chief Justice then turned to the plaintiffs claim for his wages 
as a carpenter which had not been paid for some years. The 
defendant's reply was that anything the plaintiff was properly entitled 
to had been credited to the rent account. The Chief Justice, having 
denied that there was any right to charge such rent, ruled that the 
wages had to be paid. In memorable words, therefore, deeming the 
whole proceedings of the defendant *to have been not only illegal, 
but harsh and rapacious,' Sir John Gorrie assessed the damages at 
$96.00 with $15.00 costs, and fees of Court. 

Sir John Gorrie was not merely dealing with a case that had come 
before the Chief Justice. He was defending the rights of people in 
Tobago who had never been regarded as having any rights at all. 
Sir John Gorrie openly and deliberately challenged the entire plan- 
tocracy of Tobago, as follows : 

Tt is most lamentable to see the want of cultivation of this Island, 
and I cannot but fear it has occurred from the Courts not knowing 
their powers, or the various parties to the contract being ignorant 
how to enforce their rights. I shall be prepared while in the Colony 
to hear applications from the proprietor or metayers of the 
defendant's estate or of any estate similarly situated.' 

The general consternation was indescribable. The Governor of 
Trinidad and Tobago, Sir William Robinson, .had already become 
involved with the Chief Justice in a conflict with the Chief Justice 
not unusual in West Indian history. On March 8, 1889, the Governor 
forwarded to the Chief Justice a communication from the Commis- 
sioner of Tobago to the effect that: 

'. . . the labouring classes of the Island are in an unsettled state 
and that this condition of affairs is attributable to an impression 
which has been created amongst them, with which your Honour's 
name is unfortunately associated, that as one of the immediate 
results of annexation they should be placed on the same footing 
in regard to wages as the Trinidad labourer, and that unless this 


is done, the Trinidad wages being much higher, they are the victims 
of oppression.* 

The Governor added that he had been made personally aware of 
the existence of such a feeling on a recent visit to Tobago, and had 
taken the opportunity of endeavouring to undeceive a large body of 
labourers and artisans whom he had granted an interview. The Gov- 
ernor advised the Chief Justice that 'the next session of the Supreme 
Court that it may be necessary to hold in Tobago should be presided 
over by one of the Puisne Judges.' 

Sir John Gorrie replied on the same date blaming the trouble on a 
land speculator from Trinidad who had purchased Studley Park Estate 
and had refused to grind the canes of metayers at his mill in accord- 
ance with the custom of the colony. The Chief Justice continued: 

*. . . In place of pledging myself in the beginning of March, 
according to Your Excellency's unheard of request not to go to 
Tobago in May, I now, as Chief Justice of the Colony, advise Your 
Excellency that the legal question should be put to rest at once, 
and by myself, in whom the people have proclaimed their confi- 
dence as a Judge, and that it ought not to remain unsettled one day 
longer than necessary. 

'I offer to embark at once, as soon as Your Excellency provides 
me with the means of conveyance and to hold a special Court under 
the Judicature Ordinance 1879.* 

The Governor, however, saw no necessity for a special Court, and 
therefore, declined to provide the Chief Justice with the means of 
conveyance to Tobago. 

Three months after Sir John Gorrie's judgment, the Governor 
appointed a Commission of Enquiry known as the Tobago Metairie 
Commission. The members were the Attorney General of Trinidad, 
the Commissioner of Tobago, and Rober Aucher Warner, Barrister- 
at-Law and Bachelor of Arts. Of Sir John Gorrie's judgment the Com- 
mission wrote as follows : 

"This Judgment produced a profound impression among the 
planters. For the first time in the history of the System it was there 
suggested that the metayer in Tobago has fixity of tenure of the 
portion of the Estate on which he is permitted to grow the canes 
under his Contract . . . 

*No such contention was raised during the enquiry between 1884 
and 1888, and what appeared to us good reasons were adduced why 
such a right could not have ever been, and should not now, be a 
part of the Contract. The metayer in Tobago exercises no rights of 
ownership over his lot beyond using it for the planting of canes and 
the growing of some vegetables on the cane banks. He does not live 
on his lot. His home is not there. He pays no land or occupation 
tax, and does not want to continue his occupation a moment longer 
when the land ceases to bear fruitful cane. He puts no permanent 


improvements into the land -he seldom if ever even manures it. 
When one bit of land is exhausted he moves on to a new one though 
he may go back to an old lot when it has been again in bush and 
lain, so to speak, fallow for some time. He moves from one Estate 
to another, and so far as we can learn expects nothing beyond the 
right to exhaust the crops he has planted. If it can be said that in 
respect of the quasi-partnership in the fruits of transient crops (for 
canes do not rattoon for ever) he is to be endowed with a portion of 
the freehold, there must be some corresponding obligation on his 
part not to leave the Estate; but this he has always been at liberty 
to do, and he would be the first one would suppose, to object to an 
approach to serfdom of this kind. It would sound strange to a 
Tobago metayer if he were told that he could not leave his hold- 
ing without paying compensation to the proprietor of the Estate. 
We find no warrant in the facts and history of the Contract to 
import such a right as fixity of tenure into the Contract, nor do we 
think it would be politic to introduce it.' 

And what could the Commission itself recommend? In 1890 it 
could only recommend what had been recommended in 1850, the 
introduction of Indian immigrants. If this was beyond Tobago's 
means, the Commission suggested that the Agricultural Board in 
Tobago and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago should consider 
whether some scheme was not feasible for inducing some of the 
Indians who had completed their indenture in Trinidad to try their 
fortunes in Tobago. 

By this time, however, the old Tobago planter society was no more. 
In the very year in which the Metalrie Commission reported, 1890, 
Tobago's revenue had reached the lowest figure recorded since 1865 - 
8,657, a mere $40,000, approximately one-half the revenue of 1881. 
In 1885 the bad state of the colony's finances had demanded whole- 
sale retrenchment. The volunteers were disbanded, Churches were 
to be gradually disendowed, the number of the Police Force had been 
reduced. When the West India Royal Commission of 1897 arrived 
in Tobago, the island was bankrupt. The collective value of the exports 
of sugar, rum and molasses declined from 42,437 in 1882 to 5,209 
in 1896. Exports of rum, 20,400 gallons in 1882, were 400 gallons in 
1894. Exports of sugar, 2,518 tons in 1882, were 599 tons in 1894. 
Imports of flour declined from 3,383 barrels in 1882 to 2,093 in 1894; 
imports of rice from 233,800 pounds to 43,384 pounds; of kerosene 
from 7,483 gallons to 3,612 gallons; of tobacco from 1,566 pounds 
to 12,600 pounds; of beef and pork from 107,190 pounds to 31,230 
pounds; of salted and pickled fish from 357,004 pounds to 152,688 
pounds. The total import trade was 46,927 in 1882 and 15,403 in 
1894. The value of exports declined from 48,245 in 1882 to 15,872 
in 1894. Making all necessary allowances for the incompleteness of the 
figure from 1889, the date of the association with Trinidad, the general 
economic decline of Tobago under British rule is immediately obvious. 


So much for the economic side of the story in the 19th century. 
Now for the political. 

Tobago was superior to its sister colony in Trinidad because, as one 
of the older British colonies, it enjoyed representative institutions. It 
had its own bicameral legislature with its Governor and Commander- 
in-Chief . As a self-governing colony and not a Crown Colony, it had 
the usual quarrels with the British Government over legislation affect- 
ing the slaves. One example was the British Government's opposition 
in 1818 to a Tobago Act to establish a public chain gang. The British 
Government proposed the following amendments to the Act: 

'1st The weight and length of the Chain to be established by 
Law, as well as the form and nature of the Irons. 

'2nd Females and infirm persons to be treated differently, during 
confinement, to others. 

*3rd No slave to be subject to this mode of punishment before 

*4th There ought to be separate rooms for male and female 
Slaves, as well as for those convicted of crimes and those not under 

4 5th Proprietors or Masters of Slaves ought not to have authority 
to confine them even for four days, as the Act does not specify any 
limitation to the interval that may elapse between the expiration of 
one imprisonment for four days and the commencement of another. 

'6th- Proprietors or Masters of Slaves ought not to be entrusted 
with the power of inflicting the same disgraceful punishment upon 
them as the Magistrates are authorised by Law to inflict on Public 

The Tobago Legislature protested indignantly to the United King- 
dom Parliament against the British Government's policy of 1823 for 
the amelioration of the treatment of the Slaves. As in Jamaica and 
in Barbados, they objected to any measures 'that shall, either directly 
or indirectly, diminish the authority of their own colonial legislature,' 
and argued in favour of local knowledge and local competence. They 
condemned the prohibition of the flogging of female slaves as 'tanta- 
mount to unqualified emancipation from this hour,' and asserted that 
in respect of allowing to the female slaves immunities which the male 
slaves did not possess, 'it is no more in the power of Legislation to 
raise them at once to a state of moral excellence, than to legislate the 
blossoms of spring into autumnal fruits.' The British proposal that the 
slave should be allowed resort to the law courts for redress was 
rejected by the Tobago Assembly as tantamount to immediate freedom 
for the slaves. And like their colleagues throughout the West Indies, 
they called on the British Parliament for compensation: 

They beg to remind your Honourable House that neither they 
nor their ancestors were called upon to view the justice or injustice 
of slavery as an abstract question. They found it established here 


and on the faith of Royal Proclamations and Acts of Parliament, 
embarked their capital in property in this country, and if it is now 
found that the establishment of slavery in the West Indies has been 
a National sin, the loss should be National also and they are entitled 
to a full remuneration for their property.* 

Relations between the Tobago Assembly and the British Govern- 
ment became increasingly strained after 1823. This was reflected in 
the conflict between the Governor, Sir F. E. Robinson, and the House 
of Assembly. These conflicts culminated in the submission of a peti- 
tion to the King in which the Assembly laid 43 charges against the 
Governor and asked for his instant removal. In the absence of prompt 
action from the British Government the Assembly forwarded two 
supplementary petitions to the King pressing even more beligerently 
for the Governor's immediate removal. 

In 1833, the British Government decided on a fundamental change. 
Tobago, with Grenada and St Vincent, were placed under the 
Governor of Barbados who was raised to the rank of Governor- 
General. The British Government hoped by this measure to reduce 
the expenses of the smaller colonies. But the bicameral system re- 
mained, and something approaching a Ministerial form of Govern- 
ment even emerged with the development of an Executive Committee 
whose members were chosen from the Legislature and who ceased 
to hold office as soon as they ceased to enjoy the confidence of the 
popular branch. The germ of the party system inherent in this 
development was frowned upon and discouraged. As Woodcock 
wrote : 

'There is not the material in any West Indian community to form 
either a Ministerial party or a healthy Opposition. We may find, 
upon some stirring occasion, certain members of a Colonial 
Assembly joining together to carry a measure they may deem essen- 
tial to the public welfare, or to oppose what they may consider 
injurious; but in the detail we shall hardly find them acting in con- 
cert. Every man has his own opinion, and he will not relinquish 
it to adopt that of any party. His feelings of individual independence 
are much too strong for this; and his daily occupations are such 
as to preclude him from devoting the necessary time and thought 
to the organisation of a party, or the conduct of party measures.' 

But the representative system was a farce. The franchise in Tobago 
was the prerogative of a mere handful of people. The Lieutenant 
Governor, in his address to the Assembly on March 10, 1857, spoke 
as follows: 

'The Act by which the elective franchise is at present limited is 
a relic of the time of slavery, which a free people must long have 
desired to expunge from their statute-book. It cannot be referred 
to for the purpose of settling a contested vote without reviving feel- 
ings which ought not to exist in a community from which all 


distinctions of colour and race have long since been practically 
abolished The very idea of it must be offensive, suggesting, as it 
does, that the exercise of the franchise is a privilege conceded for 
the relief of certain classes, instead of a right, co-relative with the 
possession of property and the duties of citizenship; and in practice 
the Act excludes the majority of those who directly contribute to 
the revenue, and thus violates the principles of the English Con- 
stitution, which regards the supplies as gifts from the people, voted 
by their representatives. The whole number of votes on the books 
of the returning officer is only 102, of whom only 70 are freeholders, 
or persons qualified to vote in right of their own properties, whilst 
the whole number of persons who might be assessed on the valua- 
tion rolls to pay taxes upon their freeholds appears to be 2,580. This 
cannot be regarded as a fair representation of those on whom the 
burthen of taxation falls and public policy demands that a burthen, 
which is always felt so irksome, should be lightened as much as 
possible, by giving the people the credit of bearing it of their own 
free will.' 

The result was an Act of June 1860 to 'extend the privileges, and 
otherwise provide for better representation of the people.' The island 
was divided into nine electoral districts, each Parish returning two 
representatives, and the towns of Scarborough and Plymouth one each. 
The qualification for an elector became the ownership of real property 
of the value of $48.00 or a position as manager or overseer in occupa- 
tion of a house valued at an annual rental value of $720. The tenants 
or occupants of any freehold part of a house having a distinct com- 
munication with a public road or street were qualified to vote, 
provided that they had been in possession for twelve months and their 
names were on the valuation roll. The qualification for a representa- 
tive in the House of Assembly was the ownership of real property in 
his own right or that of his wife, or possession of an annual income, 
to the value of $720. 

The result of this new Representation of the People Bill was that 
the number of voters was increased from 102 to 215. At the ensuing 
elections 91 voted, and the representatives for St John and Plymouth 
were returned by the vote of one voter in each district. 

The absurdity was obvious. In 1865 the Jamaican rebellion was 
followed by the suspension of the representative institutions and the 
introduction of the Crown Colony system. Similar changes followed 
in the Windward Islands, preparatory to the British Government's 
proposals in 1876 for a federation of the Leeward and Windward 
Islands and Barbados. Tobago's turn was not far off. Lieutenant- 
Governor Ussher dealt with the problem in 1872 as follows: 

*One of the principal obstructions of progress in the island is the 
present form of government. Its machinery would doubtless be well 
adapted to a country like Victoria or the Cape, but its adaptation 
to the conditions of a country like Tobago, an island of 90 square 


miles in extent, numbering a population of little over seventeen 
thousand souls is doubtful in the extreme. One of its results has 
been the creation of a multiplicity of petty offices with salaries 
attached of the lowest class, rendering it next to impossible to obtain 
for the performance of the duties thereof qualified and responsible 
officers, but at the same time sufficing to induce a certain class to 
look forward to obtaining them, and to avoid being obliged to 
betake themselves to more profitable but more undignified pursuits 
entailing upon them the necessity of hard work.' 

In 1874 the bicameral system was abolished and a single Chamber 
Legislature substituted. The new Legislative Council comprised 14 
members, 6 nominated by the Governor, and 8 elected by the people. 
The new Council met for the first time on February 5, 1875. The 
planters protested. A public meeting in Scarborough denounced the 
new arrangement as a violation of vested rights and a time honoured 
system. But their resentment was soon moderated by the Belmanna 
riots of 1876. 

The Belmanna riots broke out in May 1876 in Roxborough. They 
started with certain fires on the Roxborough Estate attributed to 
incendiaries. Several fields of growing canes were burnt and the 
megasse house containing a quantity of megasse equal to the manufac- 
ture of 30 hogsheads of sugar was demolished. This was associated 
with signs of dissatisfaction exhibited by the Barbadian workers on 
the estate. The Governor sent his police officers consisting of Corporal 
Belmanna and five privates to Roxborough with warrants for the 
arrests of the alleged incendiaries and generally to keep order. On 
May 3rd, warrants were issued for the apprehension of five persons. 
The police, in going to execute these warrants, carried their arms. The 
official report of what transpired reads as follows: 

'Everything seemed to have been peaceable on this morning: 
the people had turned out to work and the mill was about. 

'Whilst executing the process of Law, a spirit of determined 
hostility appears to have taken possession of the people, and ex- 
hibited itself in the stoning, and other illegal treatment of the Police 
-on the fifth arrest being made, matters assumed a worse aspect. 
The Corporal was thrown down more than once by the missiles 
thrown at Him, and wounded -the people became more violent, 
and in a most unfortunate moment, it appears to have been con- 
sidered necessary by the Corporal to fire in self-defence. The result 
of this firing, which no one deplores more than I do, was the death 
of a woman named Mary Jane Thomas. From this moment riot 
appears to have reigned supreme. The Manager's House on Roxbro 
was gutted. The mob surrounded the Court House at Roxbro armed 
with cutlasses, sticks and other missiles -some of them I understand 
being armed with guns - the release of the prisoners was demanded 
-and acceded to -but had no effect in pacifying the rioters. The 
Court House was attempted to be fired, and Corporal Belmanna- 


whose life they were determined to take together with another Police 
Officer, Allen, rather than suffer death by fire, most bravely faced 
the mob. 

'The Police generally were beaten severely, but Corporal 
Belmanna most brutally - so much so, that he died from the wounds 
inflicted on him.' 

The Governor sent for a warship from Grenada and 135 persons 
were sworn in as special constables. Indicative of the general dis- 
satisfaction was the fact that several of the special constables had 
themselves to be arrested as being concerned in the riots. 

In Tobago, as in Jamaica, once the planters felt that their privi- 
leges were threatened by a vast mass of Negro and coloured voters, 
they wanted no self-government at all and voted themselves for Crown 
Colony government. On June 6, 1867, Tobago became a Crown 
Colony, the leader of the opposition himself introducing the Bill- The 
Lieutenant Governor wrote of the new Bill : 

'That so complete a change in the constitution of the island should 
be desired after the comparatively recent one to a single chamber 
in 1874, is to be attributed to the opinion of those who hold 
the property of the country, and whose capital is embarked in the 
cultivation of the land, having undergone the most marked and 
decided changes upon the island being made a crown colony. The 
late disturbance also made manifest the insecurity of both life and 
property unless aided by the Imperial Government, hence there 
is now a leaning for protection and support which it is felt will not 
be withheld from this old community/ 

As the economic crisis worsened, the political crisis became corres- 
pondingly more desperate. On March 2, 1880, the Legislative Council, 
faced with a British Government's decision that Tobago was there- 
after to pay the salary of the Administrator which had formerly been 
paid by the United Kingdom, and faced with an outstanding debt 
burden of 4,000 at the end of 1879, decided to increase taxation. 
The export tax on sugar was reimposed, notwithstanding a protest 
from the unofficial members, and import dues were increased on flour, 
salted meat, liquor, tobacco and lumber. Three days later the unofficial 
members protested to the British Government against the imposition 
of the export tax on sugar, on the ground that sugar constituted two- 
thirds of the plantations in Tobago, the sugar market was bad, the 
sugar industry was operating at a loss, and the export tax had origin- 
ally been imposed for immigration purposes to boost the sugar 
industry. On March 31 in the same year, therefore, the Council moved 
the abolition of the export tax and instead increased taxes on land and 
tenements and on certain articles in the tariff which fell heaviest on 
the poorest classes. 

The general discontent in the island encountered by a British Royal 
Commission appointed in December 1882, to enquire into the public 


revenues, expenditure, debts and liabilities of the islands of Jamaica, 
Grenada, St Vincent, Tobago, and St Lucia, and the Leeward Islands, 
was well expressed by a humble labourer from Harmony Hall by the 
name of Alexander Frazer in a communication to the Commission 
on April 23, 1883. The letter reads as follows, its grammatical errors 
reflecting the fifty years of education after emancipation: 

*We are more than glad when we hear that you has arrived for 
our benefit, for we are more than opress with the heavy taxes we 
are squize down with, it is only the mercy of Almighty God why 
some of us is still remaining in this land of Tobago. My Lord all 
the taxes are heavy, but the house and horse taxes are more than 
we are able to pay, but my Lord we are not able to take their lives 
on account of the tax, and what must we do with them when we 
cannot pay the two pounds yearly for them. 

'When we offer them for sale those that are in better cercom- 
stances or afraid to perches them on account of the imposing taxes, 
whenever we go to speak to the Administrator towards the opres- 
sion of the taxes he dosent want to heare nothing, and we like always 
to submit ourselves to the rules and laws of our island, we dont 
like our Sovring Lady to heare anything amiss against us, for we 
know that she will not uphold with any one to impose on us. Our 
inhabitants is geting smaller and smaller every day, the labourers 
are going away daily seeking for bread; and also my Lord last week 
a poor man came to me asking me to lend him two pounds to pay 
for his horse tax, that he will give me that said horse with two soots 
of garment to keep untill he is able to pay me the two pounds, but 
I was more than sory for him, but I was not in a possession so to 
do, for with all my effort I am not able to pay my taxes as yet. 
Jentlemen, I must also inform that last year we had to pay for horse 
colt of one year old one pound, and if we are not able to pay, and 
we should try to hide them away for a little time, that should they 
grow the inspector send police officers to search in the bushes untill 
they are found, and when the owner cant pay for them, the will 
sacrifice them according to their likeing; there are many more 
grievances my Lord, but my talent is small, therefore I will say no 
more at present, trusting and waiting for your kind deliverance of 
part of our burden.' 

The picture presented by the Commission is one of the most pathetic 
even in the pathetic history of the West Indies. Expenditure on roads 
in Tobago amounted to 5,401 in the five years 1878 to 1882, about 
$26,000. The Government could not afford to pay an officer to super- 
intend the 100 miles of main road in the island. All adults were 
required to pay a road tax of $1.44 per month or to give six days* 
labour at the rate of 14 cents per day. The salaries of the medical offi- 
cers were purely nominal; the 1883 expenditure on the Medical 
Department was 1,972, about $9,000. The sum of $12,000 was voted 
in 1882 for the establishment of an Alms House; the Alms House 


could not be proceeded with, owing to the impoverished condition of 
the Tobago Treasury. The Sergeant of the island received a salary of 
$24 a month; there were 18 Constables who received a salary of $12 a 
month and 10 Constables who received $14.40 a month. The Educa- 
tion vote for 1883 was $2,880, an additional sum of $960 being voted 
for a Grammar School. The Civil Service establishment in Tobago 
numbered 60, and their annual salaries amounted to $7,072, a little 
less than $34,000. 

The Commission found the Administration struggling against these 
adverse conditions, and was satisfied that the recent scandals in 
Grenada and elsewhere were inevitable when officials generally had 
to accept such low salaries. The Commission emphasised that in 
Tobago, Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia, in each one of the islands 
the whole work had to be gone through of devising, drafting, con- 
sidering, passing, and amending an Ordinance on every necessary 
matter. The same quadruplication was seen in all other work whether 
of correspondence or finance. Barbados had upset the British apple- 
cart by positively refusing to participate in any federation with the 
small islands. It wanted neither Little Eight nor Little Four. It was 
determined to go it alone. The Commission of 1882 therefore recom- 
mended a federation of the four islands of St Vincent, St Lucia, 
Grenada, Tobago, with the possible inclusion of Dominica, with head- 
quarters in Grenada. The Commission stated: 

'In each of these four islands it has been the custom to maintain 
an independence of the others, which may have been excusable 
in former days, when communication was unfrequent and difficult, 
and when there were neither telegraphs nor steamers, when each 
Island was actually separate from the others, and when advice or 
news from or to the mother country occupied months in transit, 
a state of things entirely superseded in the present day. 

The evils of isolation have, however, for long been acknowledged 
in the Islands themselves, and for more than a century a tendency 
towards union has manifested itself. In the year 1765 Grenada was 
the capital Island of a federation including St Vincent, Tobago, and 
Dominica. In 1771 Dominica, and in 1776 St Vincent, respectively 
left the federation, so that in 1783 Grenada was united only to the 
Grenadines. St Lucia became English permanently in 1803. In 1833 
one general government was established, to include Barbados, 
Grenada, St Vincent, and Tobago. In 1838 St Lucia was included 
in this federation. There has thus for long existed a consciousness 
in the Islands themselves that isolation was erroneous, and this even 
before the days of steamers and the telegraph. Hitherto, however, 
attempts have been confined to forming a federal rather than a 
united Colony. 

'In the year 1876 the lesser Windward Islands were willing to 
confederate with Barbados on closer terms, but little was accom- 
plished to realise the expressed wishes of leading inhabitants, owing 


to the action of the latter Island. Moreover, the former cannot but 
have felt that Barbados, in population and wealth, was more than 
their equal, and would have acquired, in consequence, a prepon- 
derating influence in any joint government. 

'It may be pointed out that the true basis of successful union is 
identity of requirements. The lesser islands have now become 
Crown Colonies, and in so far differ in the matter of constitution 
from Barbados; and if we regard these Islands generally we shall 
see that in past history, present circumstances, and future require- 
ments St Lucia, St Vincent, Grenada, Tobago, and Dominica stand 
in one and the same category, and apart from any other English 
Islands so far as domestic requirements are concerned. 

These five Islands are geographically in position sufficiently near 
each other to form one Colony. The extreme distance from south 
to north from Grenada to Dominica being only 200 miles, a 
distance little exceeding the length of Jamaica, and not half the 
length of the Bahamas, the West Africa Settlements, or the Gold 
Coast Colony. 

'Each of these Islands possesses, in addition to small tracts of 
cultivated soil, large areas of accessible and fertile, but as yet un- 
cultivated land. In each roads are urgently required to open up the 
various districts; in short there is as yet but little cultivation or 
population in proportion to area, and ample opportunity and room 
for further growth. These distinctive features are present neither 
in Barbados, which is densely populated and cultivated over every 
acre, nor in St Christopher, Antigua, and Nevis, in which there exists 
an old established cultivation extending over nearly all accessible 
portions of each Island.' 

On February 25, 1885, the Governor-in-Chief of Barbados 
addressed the Legislative Council of Tobago and introduced a resolu- 
tion with respect to the proposed confederation of Grenada, St Lucia, 
St Vincent and Tobago, which reads in part as follows: 

The Legislative Councils of the said islands would cease to exist 
but that Local Boards should be established in each of the said 
islands for the administration and regulation of such local matters 
as shall be placed under their control by any law or laws to be 
enacted by the Governor with the consent of the Legislative Council 
of the (entire) Colony . . .* 

The Resolution was rejected by the Council and a counter resolu- 
tion introduced by the unofficial members. The proposed union was 
regarded as not acceptable to the great majority of the inhabitants 
of Tobago and as not advantageous to its interests. The British 
Government was not impressed. On March 5, 1885, an Order-in- 
Council separated the administration of Barbados from that of the 
four islands and constituted the office of Governor and Commander- 
in-Chief of the Windward Islands of Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia 
and Tobago. 


In 1886 the Governor-in-Chief in Grenada requested the Tobago 
Legislature to appoint a committee to submit proposals with respect 
to Tobago for a comprehensive scheme of fiscal requirements, both 
in customs and internal taxation, on a uniform basis for the four 

The Tobago Legislature submitted its proposals which were quali- 
fied by two basic considerations : 

(a) 'the opinion that a uniformity of customs duties among these 
Islands however desirable would to a large extent be imprac- 
ticable owing to the great differences existing in the circum- 
stances of each of these four Islands.' 

(b) '. . . as there is a strong probability that our proposed annexa- 
tion to Trinidad will soon be an accomplished fact, it would be 
unwise to make any alterations at present in our Tariff as if 
that very desirable union is carried out our fiscal system will no 
doubt have to be remodelled on the Trinidad lines.' 

In the 18th century Tobago had lived between England, France, 
Holland and Courland. Becoming finally British, it went it alone for 
a while. Then Britain tacked it on to Barbados, in association with 
Grenada and St Vincent, and later St Lucia. Then Barbados seceded. 
Therefore Britain decided to associate Tobago with St Lucia, St Vin- 
cent, Grenada and possibly Dominica. Betweenity in the 18th century 
and betweenity in the 19th century. Metropolitan betweenity in the 
18th century became colonial betweenity in the 19th century. Tobago 
would have none of this. If it was one of the eternal verities 
that Tobago was to be between, it preferred Trinidad to Barbados or 
Grenada or St Vincent or St Lucia. 


The Union of Trinidad and Tobago 

The initiative for the union of Trinidad and Tobago came neither from 
Tobago nor from Trinidad but from the Secretary of State for the 
Colonies. In December 1886, the following notice appeared in the 
Gazettes and newspapers of both Colonies at the direction of the Sec- 
retary of State for the Colonies : 

'Her Majesty's Government having had under their consideration 
the condition and prospects of the Colony of Tobago and, having 
regard to its geographical proximity to, and means of communica- 
tion with, the Colony of Trinidad, are of opinion that it would be 
for the" advantage of both Colonies that the Colony of Tobago 
should be annexed to and form part of the said Colony of Trinidad. 
'Such annexation may be effected in either of the two following 
modes, namely: 

'1. The Colony of Tobago may be wholly and completely in- 
corporated with the Colony of Trinidad; or 
*2. The Colony of Tobago may be annexed to the Colony of 
Trinidad as a dependency, having a separate Treasury and sub- 
ordinate Legislature, holding to Trinidad the same relation that 
the Turks Islands do to Jamaica. 

The former of these two schemes appears to be preferable: Her 
Majesty's Government are however desirous of ascertaining the 
opinions and wishes of the inhabitants of both Colonies upon the 
subject; and after a sufficient time has elapsed for a full considera- 
tion of the question, resolutions in favour of incorporation of 
Tobago with Trinidad, or, as an alternative, of annexation as a 
dependency, will be introduced into the Legislative Council of each 
of the Colonies. 9 

The merchants and planters of Tobago immediately took up arms. 
They preferred the second alternative to the first. Accepting the 
principle of a customs union, a uniform code of laws, and the appoint- 
ment of a single Governor for both islands, they demanded full con- 
trol by Tobago of its internal taxes and disposition of its internal 
revenues. On January 19, 1887, the following resolutions were carried 
unanimously in the Legislative Council of Tobago. 

'That this Council, having had under its consideration the notice 
published in the Government Gazette under date 2nd December, 
1886, is satisfied that, subject to the conditions hereinafter men- 
tioned, it would be to the advantage of both Colonies that the Colony 
of Tobago should be united to that of Trinidad so as to form one 
Colony, to be called the Colony of Trinidad and Tobago; and that 



the Colony so constituted should be governed by one Governor 
and be subject to one and the same code of laws. 

That as an incident of such Union this Council is of opinion that 
the duties leviable in Tobago upon articles imported from abroad 
should be the same as those in Trinidad, and that the traffic and 
intercourse between the two Islands should be absolutely free; but 
that the interests of Tobago imperatively require that all internal 
taxes other than the duties aforesaid should be imposed and adjusted 
with strict reference to local circumstances, and should not follow 
the laws of taxation in force in Trinidad, except in so far as the 
local circumstances may admit of it. 

That this Council is further of opinion that all revenues collected 
in and on account of Tobago should be wholly expended in the 
administration of the Island, and should not be absorbed in the 
general revenue of the United Colony; that no part of the public 
expenditure of Trinidad should be chargeable upon the revenues of 
Tobago, and no part of the public expenditure of Tobago upon the 
revenues of Trinidad, except so far as the two Islands may by 
mutual consent, and upon terms to be mutually agreed upon, enter 
jointly upon any public enterprise for the benefit of both. 

That the Chief Executive Officer representing the Government 
of the United Colony in Tobago should have associated with him a 
local Board, to be termed the Financial Board, whose duty it should 
be to advise the Governor in all matters relating to the internal 
taxation and expenditure of the Island, and that no tax leviable in 
Tobago (other than Customs Duties) should be imposed or altered 
without the consent of such Board. 

That the Financial Board should, in addition to the Executive 
Officer, consist of three resident householders not being salaried 
Public Officers, one of whom to be nominated by the Governor, and 
two to be elected by the general body of householders in the Island. 

That for the carrying out of these proposals this Council do move 
an humble address to the Crown praying that Her Most Gracious 
Majesty will be pleased to take such steps as may be necessary to 
effect the union of the two Colonies and to secure the faithful and 
lasting observance of the conditions hereinbefore set forth.* 

The merchants of Tobago were emphatic in their repudiation of 
the extension to Tobago of the fiscal laws of Trinidad or of the utilisa- 
tion of Tobago's revenues for purely Trinidad purposes. Under no 
circumstances would they agree to a union which made Tobago a ward 
or district of Trinidad. They sent a petition to the Legislative Council 
of Tobago which reads in part as follows : 

^ 'Of those that should be avoided we consider the most important 
a any arrangement that would subject us to the fiscal laws of 

Taxation in Trinidad is equal to an average of 3 per head 
per annum of the population whilst that of Tobago does not ordin- 


arily reach 15s. 6d. per head and is capable of reduction to con- 
siderably below that amount and we desire to record our solemn 
conviction that any such arrangement would be ruinous to the 
people of Tobago and would depopulate the place and reduce it 
back to the condition of a wilderness. 

'We conceive that it would be unnecessary and unfair to sub- 
ject Tobago to such fiscal union and assimilation because Tobago 
has no interest in, and can derive no benefit from, some of 
the heaviest burdens of Trinidad such as Railways - Immigration 
Service - Interest on a large public debt and others. 

'We think that in some particulars our tariff rates might if found 
necessary for the prevention of smuggling be assimilated to those 
of Trinidad. 

'We believe that practically such a scheme as would include on 
fair arrangements as to cost weekly or half weekly steam commu- 
nication with Trinidad and the working of some of our institutions 
particularly the Supreme Court, the Gaol and Police in connection 
with those of Trinidad but preserving the locus of those departments 
in Tobago would be the most advantageous to this Colony. 

'We are of opinion that it would not be advantageous to this 
Colony to be so united with Trinidad as to be made a ward thereof 
nor to be deprived of its separate administration subordinate to 
that of Trinidad.' 

Notwithstanding what the Royal Commission of 1882 had said or 
the Secretary of State for the Colonies had suggested, the Legislative 
Council of Tobago was reluctant to surrender its institutions and 
powers, however much these may have been truncated by the intro- 
duction of the Crown Colony system in 1876. The debate on the reso- 
lutions of January 9, 1887, was concluded with a resolution moved by 
one of the unofficial members, Mr Ebenezer Henderson, which, after 
slight amendment, was adopted by the Council as follows: 

'That inasmuch as the wish of the people of Tobago for union 
with Trinidad has principally been based on the representations of 
the Government and the assurances given to the people that mate- 
rial benefits will result to Tobago from such union, the Secretary 
of State for the Colonies be respectfully asked in the event of such 
union taking place to afford the people of Tobago a pledge that 
should it prove disadvantageous to this Colony, or otherwise un- 
desirable to the majority of the inhabitants, this Colony shall on 
petition have granted back to it the form of self government which 
now exists here.* 

All this of course was quite absurd in the light of the financial situa- 
tion of Tobago brought out in the report of the Royal Commission 
of 1882, of the steady economic decline which we have already indi- 
cated, and of the message of the Administrator to the" Legislative 
Council submitting the estimates for the year 1887. With a deficit of 


3,000 and an anticipated revenue of 8,000, the Administrator ex- 
pressed the hope that 'the roads, with judicious watching, could be 
kept in fair order a little longer, without any large expenditure', and 
that the hospital, which at one time it was feared might have to be 
closed, could continue open, Limited to twelve beds. Even this was 
only possible because the Government of Grenada had agreed to wait 
for five years for the repayment of a loan of 1,000 which, according 
to the original arrangement, should have been repaid in its entirety 
in November 1887. 

What really mattered, however, was not what Tobago thought and 
said about the arrangement proposed by the Secretary of State, but 
what Trinidad thought and said. Trinidad, being a Crown Colony, had 
little freedom to think or say too much, and of course the people of 
Trinidad were not consulted in the matter. With this reservation, the 
question of the association of Trinidad and Tobago, whether incor- 
poration or annexation or union, gave rise, on March 5, 1887, to one 
of the most amusing debates in the history of the Legislature of 

On that day the Solicitor General, Mr Maxwell Phillip, an English- 
man, moved the following resolution: 

That in view of the opinion expressed by Her Majesty's Govern- 
ment after consideration of the condition and prospects of the 
Colony of Tobago, and having regard to its geographical proximity 
to and means of communication with this Colony, that it would be 
for the advantage of both Colonies that the Colony of Tobago 
should be annexed to and form part of the Colony of Trinidad, and 
further of the resolution adopted by the Legislative Council of 
Tobago at their meeting on the 19th January in which, subject to 
certain conditions therein specified, they express their concurrence 
in the proposal of Her Majesty's Government, this Council is of 
opinion that it is expedient that the incorporation of Tobago with 
Trinidad in the manner suggested should be completed.' 

The Solicitor General's heart was simply not in the matter, and he 
himself said at the end of the debate that he had addressed the Coun- 
cil for a 'weary hour and a half. He emphasised that the proposition 
was the brain child of the United Kingdom Government which, having 
failed in its efforts some eleven years earlier to pass the baby on to 
Barbados, was now seeking to place the responsibilities of paternity 
on the shoulders of Trinidad. Mr Maxwell Phillip commended the pro- 
position to the Legislative Council of Trinidad in the following terms: 

'It therefore appeared clear that what was desired by the Govern- 
ment was to take a step which was likely to diminish the expenditure 
of Tobago as an independent or separate Government, to enable 
Tobago to economise a large portion of the money which was now 
spent for the purpose of keeping up a separate Government, to 
impart or give to Tobago the assistance of some of the public officers 


of this country, and to impart from our community, as a commer- 
cial community, the intercourse which would take place, to enable 
Tobago to go on conjointly with Trinidad without unnecessarily 
spending large sums of money on a Government which was now 
separate and which ought not to be, considering the condition of 
Tobago and the state of the times. Then, if that be so, he thought 
we were bound to accept it and that we would do no violence to 
the feelings that we always entertained towards the English Govern- 
ment -that we were bound to accept this as a scheme emanating 
from Her Majesty's Government and one which was put forward 
to be accepted by Trinidad and by Tobago in case there was no 
detriment done either to the inhabitants of the one or of the 
other . . . 

'Her Majesty's Government was bound to protect her domin- 
ions and to devise the best method of governing any portion of 
those dominions, and it appeared to him that if it was suggested 
that this portion of the dominions of Her Majesty the Queen would 
be efficiently and economically governed, and it was delicately left 
to them to consider the matter and pronounce upon it whether there 
was any strong and particular reason -a reason arising from the 
detriment that would be wrought on the community of Trinidad 
or Tobago - in the absence of any detriment, if they saw no detri- 
ment whatever in a scheme of that sort, he had not the slightest 
doubt that their desire to assist in the proper government of any 
portion of Her Majesty's dominions especially when the suggestion 
was made to them, would induce them at once to consider the 
matter and to adopt the resolution for having Tobago annexed to 

The real mover of the resolution, however, was the Governor, Sir 
William Robinson, who was presiding over the Council. The Governor 
interrupted the Solicitor General throughout his speech and heckled 
the unofficial members. The Governor held out the blandishments 
that the British Government would reduce the establishment in Tobago 
which would avoid the question of any pecuniary assistance from 
Trinidad, that the miscellaneous expenses of the Trinidad Govern- 
ment in Tobago would not exceed 50, and that Tobago would require 
the services of no civil servant in Trinidad except the Governor and 
the Chief Justice. The Solicitor General added that Trinidad 'won't 
contribute a rap* to the necessary steamer service between Trinidad 
and Tobago. 

The resolution came under heavy fire from the unofficial members 
of the Council, principally Mr Fenwick, the nominated member for 
Naparima representing the sugar industry, Mr Frederick Warner, 
and Dr de Boissier. Mr Warner warned that the Trinidad member 
of the Financial Board would be outvoted by the two Tobago mem- 
bers, and that annexation would ultimately involve a greater contribu- 
tion on the part of Trinidad to the public establishment in Tobago, 


whilst the public institutions of Trinidad, hospitals, asylums, prisons, 
would be crowded with Tobago inmates. He was certain that Trinidad 
would have to bear a very large proportion of the cost of the steamer 
service. The unofficial members forced an adjournment of the Council, 
which reconvened on March 8, and was presented with an amended 
resolution by the Attorney General, Mr Gatty, which reads as 

*Whereas Her Majesty's Government have expressed the opinion 
after consideration of the condition and prospects of the Colony 
of Tobago, and having regard to its geographical proximity to, and 
means of communication with this Colony, that it is expedient that 
the Colony of Tobago should be annexed to and form part of the 
Colony of Trinidad: 

'Resolved that this Council has no objection to the administra- 
tive annexation of Tobago with this Government, Tobago retaining, 
however, a separate Treasury and a separate internal Financial 
Board, on the understanding that such annexation is approved and 
desired by Her Majesty's Government, and on the further under- 
standing that no pecuniary charge is now or hereafter to be imposed 
on the Revenues of Trinidad for any service connected with the 
Island of Tobago, or the aforesaid annexation for administrative 

'Resolved further that as an incident of such annexation there 
is no objection to the two Islands being governed by one Governor 
and being subject to one and the same code of Laws and that the 
duties leviable in Tobago upon articles imported from abroad 
should be the same as those in Trinidad, and that the traffic and 
intercourse between the two islands should be absolutely free/ 

The main theme of the Attorney General's submission was again 
the obligation on the part of a Crown Colony Legislature to do what 
it was told by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. One would have 
thought that if the Secretary of State for the Colonies had directed 
the Legislature of Trinidad to cut its own throat, then as far as the 
Attorney General was concerned, the Colony's throat had to be cut. 
Mr Gatty's speech on March 8, 1887, was as follows: 

*He was speaking now rather not as a public officer or servant 
of Her Majesty, but rather as if he belonged to the Colony, and 
looking at it from a Colonial point of view, and it seemed to him 
that we must recognise the fact that the Secretary of State and the 
Home Government were more or less compelled to abide by the 
decision of the people of England. We could see that there was a 
tendency of the people of England, as expressed in the votes at 
elections, to insist upon the Colonies being called upon to cut them- 
selves so far adrift as to manifest some energy, and that the old 
idea of keeping up expensive administrations in such places as the 
West Indies was gone and would not be assented to by the people 


of England. What he could easily see was not very far off was that 
unless the West Indies would consent to being islands confederated 
together and help the Home Government to get the administration 
carried on by responsible officers, not in each individual Colony, 
but unless some assent was given to amalgamations of that sort, 
probably the Home Government would be forced by public 
opinion in England to pass some strong measure to place the whole 
West Indies in one confederate Government . . . 

'We might want the assistance of other Islands, and he thought 
that any West India Island that held out to pursuing a selfish policy 
of isolation against any reasonable scheme of this kind to enable 
Her Majesty's Government to meet the depression in the West 
Indies, was not doing any good.' 

This was the man who was a year later to be appointed Chairman 
of the Royal Franchise Commission to consider the question of the 
introduction of the elective principle into the Crown Colony system 
of Trinidad. 

Mr Fenwick, a diehard to the last, voted against the amended resolu- 
tion, concerned no doubt with maintaining that the sugar industry 
had first claim on the resources of Trinidad for the continuation, in 
part out of public funds, of Indian indentured immigration. Mr Fen- 
wick protested against the annexation of Tobago to Trinidad for the 
following reasons: 

'1. Because the Colony of Tobago is, owing to th low prices obtain- 
able for its principal and almost only staple, in a state of bankruptcy, 
with no prospect of better times in the near future, and the com- 
mercial credit abroad of the Colony of Trinidad will be injuriously 
affected by extending its protection to another colony in such 

*2. Because administrative annexation retaining for Tobago a 
separate Treasury and separate internal Financial Board and all 
the machinery of a separate Government, while it will admit of 
some economy in official salaries, will not effect such reductions as 
to enable Tobago to keep its expenditure within the limits of its 
yearly diminishing revenue. If the Ordinance to repeal certain 
duties of Customs now under consideration of this Council be 
passed, the small revenue of about 8,000 now collected in Tobago 
will be reduced to less than one half of this sum. 
'3. Because if Tobago do benefit by a closer connection with Trini- 
dad it can only be by the introduction into Tobago of Trinidad 
capital and by the enterprise of Trinidadians, all and more than 
all of which are urgently needed in Trinidad for the development 
of its own resources. 

*4. Because any attempts to bring about a closer connection be- 
tween the two Colonies will necessitate the establishment of a 
steamer service, the expense of which Tobago is unable to bear 
even in part and which would be altogether unremunerative to 


Trinidad if this Colony be called upon to bear any share of it 
Though geographically nearer to Tobago than any of the other 
neighbouring Colonies, Trinidad is not so convenient for purposes 
of trade as Grenada or Barbados. The prevailing winds of this lati- 
tude are favourable only for a voyage from Tobago to Trinidad, 
the return voyage being usually a long and tedious beat up against 
the wind often occupying seven days. 

'5. Because the whole trade of Tobago with the British West Indies 
is too insignificant, even if Trinidad obtained it all, to benefit Trini- 
dad to the slightest appreciable extent. The bulk of the existing trade 
with Trinidad, namely, ground provisions, will find no market here 
in another year or two. If the cultivation of garden lots in Trinidad 
continues to increase at the same rate as during the past eight or 
ten years Trinidad will require very soon to export instead of import 
ground provisions. The exportations from Tobago during the year 
1886 of an increased number of ponies, goats, pigs and other live- 
stock, so far from being the natural growth of a prosperous trade, 
is merely an indication of the distress to which proprietors, great 
and small, of that Colony, are now reduced. 
*6. Because Trinidad is put to expense indirectly by Tobago need- 
ing the services of certain public officers paid by the Colony of 
Trinidad to devote their whole time and attention to its own in- 
terests. If these officers have the time to spare for the work of 
another Colony it would appear that there has been and is much 
room for economy in their various departments. 
*7. Because by agreeing to the act of administrative annexation 
this Council commits itself to a policy which must inevitably ter- 
minate in a complete incorporation or absorption of Tobago by 
Trinidad as soon as the futility of the present arrangements is suffi- 
ciently demonstrated. 

*8. And because the second resolution is not in accordance with 
fact, it being notorious that an overwhelming majority of all classes 
in Trinidad strongly disapprove of the annexation of Tobago. 

The Port-of-Spain Gazette was the mouthpiece of the opposition in 
Trinidad, as it was one of the principal spokesmen for constitution 
reform. In a bitter editorial it took the view that Britain could much 
more effectively help both Trinidad and Tobago by doing something 
to assist the sugar producers to find a place in the British market- 
this question will be taken up later. The editorial continued: 

*We can readily believe that were these Colonies to go from 
bad to worse, until it became necessary to draw on the Imperial 
Treasury for the wherewithal to carry on the local Governments, 
then the Home Government would very speedily look about for 
any means of saving the pockets of the English taxpayers, and the 
interest or welfare of the Colonies would be sacrificed without a 
single moments reflection; but so long as these Colonies can afford 
to pay their own way the Home Government will, in the future, 


as they have ever done in the past, leave them to fight their own 
battles. In fact in our opinion it was the fear that if things got worse 
in Tobago, an appeal to England for assistance was inevitable, that 
induced the Home Government to look about for some other means 
of providing for the carrying on of the Government of Tobago, 
and the move that has just been sanctioned by the Legislative Coun- 
cil amounts to an admission on our part that our officials have so 
little to do locally that they can without any inconvenience or 
expense to this Colony do extra duty in Tobago whenever called 

Thus were Trinidad and Tobago united, by the insistence of the 
British Government, into what could only be called a confederation. 
The arrangement was quite novel, but it was an anticipation of what 
was to come in the next seventy years when the West Indies were 
to get accustomed to Britain's readiness to propose or support any 
arrangement, however fantastic, which might reduce financial obli- 
gations to the West Indies, relieve it of the burden of administering 
these small and separate colonies, and make concessions to any vested 
interest which Britain thought it necessary to placate, as it had through- 
out the 19th century placated the sugar interest in Trinidad in respect 
of indentured immigration at public expense. 

So there was nothing surprising in the agitation begun in Tobago 
in 1893 to the effect that a yearly allowance should be made from the 
Trinidad Treasury to the Tobago Treasury in compensation for the 
loss of customs duties because of the union of the two islands 
for customs purposes and the consequent diversion of direct trade 
from Tobago to Trinidad. In December, 1893, Tobago sent its Com- 
missioner and its representative in the Legislative Council of Trinidad 
and Tobago to plead Tobago's case. What was Tobago's case? That 
Tobago residents went to Trinidad, purchased consumer goods like 
matches and tobacco, and took them back to Tobago to the detriment 
of Tobago's revenues. 

This was too much for the unofficial members in Trinidad. Mr Fen- 
wick, reiterating his opposition to the original association, thought 
in disgust that it was carrying things a little too far to enter into the 
question of how much duty was due to Tobago for a hat and a pair of 
gloves bought in Trinidad shops by Tobago residents. Dr de Bois- 
siere emphasised that annexation had been forced on Trinidad by the 
British Government, and therefore, if Tobago suffered any loss from 
the transaction, in the past or in the future, such loss should in fair- 
ness be defrayed by the British Government which had guaranteed 
that Trinidad should not at any time be called upon to defray any 
expenses on behalf of Tobago. Mr Eugene Lange also opposed the 
proposition that Trinidad should pay for loss of revenue in Tobago on 
every hat or umbrella sold to Tobago residents in Trinidad stores, 
and he denied that Trinidad had done anything contrary to the Order 
in Council uniting Trinidad and Tobago. 


But the vested interests in Tobago stood firm -for what was 
involved was not the people of Tobago, the vast majority of whom 
merely wanted to get freedom of movement to Trinidad, to follow 
those Tobagonians who had already settled in Toco in large numbers. 
On February 5, 1894, the Financial Board of Tobago decided to for- 
ward the following memorial to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 
the Marquis of Ripon: 

*1. That by section XXIX of the Royal Order in Council of the 
17th day of November 1888 it is, among other things, ordered that 
the Laws of Trinidad relating to Customs and Customs Duties 
(other than Export Duty) and Excise Duties on Rum and other 
Spirits shall be in force in Tobago from the 1st day of January 1889 
and that the laws theretofore in force in Tobago in relation to the 
subjects shall thereupon cease to be in force. 

*2. That the operation of these Laws in so far as they affect Tobago 
has been disastrous to the Revenue which fact has already been 
laid before Your Lordship in certain correspondence which has 
passed between the Commissioner of Tobago, His Excellency the 
Governor of Trinidad and Tobago and Your Lordship and which 
is within the cognisance of the Members of this Board. 
*3. That the above referred to correspondence fully sets forth the 
present position in relation to the operation of the Laws in question. 
*4. That by Section XXX of the said Order in Council it is ordered 
that the Revenue of the Island of Tobago shall be kept distinct from 
that of the Island of Trinidad and its Dependencies. 
*5. That the object of this section has been defeated by the opera- 
tion of the Trinidad Customs Laws which has caused and is causing 
a considerable diversion of Revenue from the Treasury of Tobago 
to that of Trinidad, it being impossible, as has been demonstrated 
before the Committee appointed by His Excellency the Governor 
to inquire into the loss of Revenue to Tobago, to arrive at any 
system by which the said loss can be checked. 

*6. That the Members of this Board are unanimously of opinion 
that Tobago should have the right to manage her own Fiscal affairs, 
and to make laws for the regulations of the Customs, Excise and 
other duties which are at present, imposed under the Laws of 

The absurdity threatened to become more absurd. Tobago had 
been joined to Trinidad on the basis of a customs union which left 
Tobago autonomy in matters of internal taxation. Now the vested 
interests in Tobago wanted to abolish customs union and give Tobago 
the power to impose its own customs and excise duties. The Select 
Committee of the Trinidad and Tobago Legislative Council expressed 
the opinion 'that it would not only be more satisfactory to Tobago but 
altogether a simpler and more equitable arrangement if the free inter- 
change of goods between the two islands were terminated and each 


permitted to collect and retain its own duties and to fix its own 
Customs Tariff.' 

This was the situation encountered by the Royal Commission of 
1897 when it visited Tobago. The Royal Commission reported as 

*We recommend the complete amalgamation of Tobago and 
Trinidad, and the abolition of the separate account of revenue and 
expenditure. Tobago would then become a ward, or district, of 
Trinidad, and the two islands would have a common exchequer. 
To this measure objections would, no doubt, be raised locally, 
though we believe the majority of inhabitants of Tobago are in 
favour of it. The owners of large tracts of land are afraid that 
financial amalgamation with Trinidad might lead to the tax on land 
being raised to the level of that prevailing in the latter island. We 
are unable to see why this result should necessarily follow, as 
Tobago, in its present condition, has a good claim for a separate 
treatment in this matter. The traders seem to fear that amalgama- 
tion with Trinidad would reduce their business in connection with 
the import trade, and possibly with the export trade. This result 
might follow, but from the point of view of the general interest, no 
sound argument against the amalgamation can be based upon it.* 

The British Government took action in accordance with the re- 
commendation of the Royal Commission. On October 20, 1898, an 
Order in Council was approved, revoking the Order in Council of 
April 6, 1889, and constituting Tobago a ward of Trinidad. The Order 
in Council prescribed as follows : 

'On and after the date of the coming into force of this Order, 
the Island of Tobago shall be a Ward of the Colony of Trinidad 
and Tobago; and the revenue, expenditure, and debt of Tobago 
shall be merged in and form part of the revenue, expenditure, and 
debt of the united Colony, and the debt due from Tobago to Trini- 
dad shall be cancelled . . . 

'All future Ordinances enacted by the Legislature of the Colony 
shall extend to Tobago. Provided that the Legislature of the Colony 
may at any time by Ordinance provide for the special regulation 
of all or any of the matters and things dealt with in the several Acts, 
Ordinances, and Regulations of Tobago enumerated in the 
Schedule hereto, and of any other and further matters and things 
in respect of which it may be deemed necessary to enact special and 
local Ordinances or Regulations applicable to Tobago as distin- 
guished from the rest of the Colony. 

"The Acts, Ordinances, and Regulations of Tobago enumerated 
in the Schedule hereto shall, until repealed or amended by the 
Legislature of the Colony, continue locally in force in Tobago, but 
such Acts, Ordinances, and Regulations shall in every case be con- 
strued as amended by and read together with this Order; and 


in particular wherever in such Acts, Ordinances, and Regulations 
any duty is imposed or power conferred upon any specified officer 
or person, such duty or power shall be performed or exercised by 
such person or persons as the Governor may from time to time by 
Proclamation appoint for the purpose.* 

The British Government washed its hands of the matter and divested 
itself of any special responsibility for Tobago by making available to 
the Government of Trinidad the sum of 4,000 in part repayment of 
a loan of 5,000 which had been made from Trinidad to Tobago. 

Tobago's humiliation was complete. Throughout the 17th and 18th 
centuries the great powers had fought over Tobago as if it was one 
of the world's most precious jewels. In 1898 Tobago was virtually sold 
to Trinidad for $19,200. The 4,000 made available to Trinidad for 
taking over the responsibility for Tobago's 18,000 people compared 
with the 226,746 paid in 1834 as compensation to the slave owners for 
9,078 slaves hi Tobago, exclusive of 7,130 paid as compensation 
for 1,479 children under six years of age. 

This was no case of isolated parsimony. It was a part of the general 
philosophy of the British Government to the West Indian problems 
caused and aggravated by Britain's sugar policy in the 19th century 
which brought the West Indies in 1897 to the verge of bankruptcy. 


The Bankruptcy of Sugar 

'But what good came of it?', as little Peterkin said of the Battle of 
Blenheim. One is tempted to ask the same question about the efforts 
to promote the sugar industry by the importation of thousands of 
indentured Indian immigrants, as one arrives at the crisis in the sugar 
industry that hit all the West Indian colonies in 1897. 

The Indian indentured system meant, in the ultimate analysis, the 
continued dependence of the sugar industry of Trinidad on cheap 
manual labour -or, to put it a little differently, the preference for 
cheap labour over mechanisation. The sugar industry in Trinidad, 
as well as in British Guiana and the other West Indian islands, was 
immediately vulnerable in two directions - (a) from countries which, 
while indicating the same preference for degraded labour, were never- 
theless larger, more fertile and infinitely more advanced in factory 
technology, such as Cuba; (b) from countries which depended on beet 
rather than the cane for their sugar, and thus, having to cope with the 
smaller sucrose content of the beet, were nevertheless infinately more 
advanced in science and technology, both in field and in factory, such 
as Germany. The combination of competition from these two areas, 
Cuban cane and German beet, associated with the almost incredibly 
selfish policy of the British Government, brought the West Indies to 
the verge of total collapse in 1897. 

Let us first consider the position in Cuba where production increased 
from 223,145 tons in 1850 to 1,054,214 tons in 1894. Until 1880 the 
Cuban sugar industry was based on slave labour, the difficulties of 
obtaining which were aggravated by Britain's policy towards the 
international suppression of the slave trade which we have already 
noted. Notwithstanding this drawback, the Cuban sugar economy 
made rapid strides in the 19th century as a result principally of two 
developments - the amalgamation of factories, in which the latest 
machinery replaced the old cattle mills, and the introduction of the 
railway, which permitted an expansion of the radius of the plantation. 
As a result, Cuban output per factory increased from 30 tons in 1792 
to 268 tons in 1859, 500 tons in 1870, and 1,330 tons in 1890. 
The average output per factory in 1894 was 2,635 tons. 

At the same time, the monster plantation appeared on the Cuban 
scene. The first sign of this was in 1857, when the largest plantation, 
Santa Susana, comprising 11,000 acres, of which 1,700 were in cane, 
employed 866 slaves, and produced nearly 2,700 tons of sugar. By 
1893, the largest plantation, Soledad, owned by United States capital, 
comprising 12,000 acres, of which 5,000 were in cane, contained 
23 miles of private railway and employed 1,200 men in harvest time. 
Another United States enterprise, Santa Teresa, of 9,000 acres, repre- 



seated a capital investment of $1,565,000 US. Central Constancia, 
the most important sugar factory in the world at that time, produced 
19,500 tons of sugar. The Cuban crop of 1894 was valued at over $62 
million US. Some $30 million of US capital were invested in the 
Cuban sugar industry in 1896. 

It was simply impossible for Trinidad to stand up against this com- 
petition. The Cuban production figure of 1,054,214 tons in 1894 
compared with a total British West Indian export of 260,211 tons 
in the same year, of which Trinidad was responsible for 46,869 tons. 
Whilst Trinidad's factory system was quite modern as far as the 
British West Indies were concerned, it required little more than two 
factories like Central Constancies in Cuba to produce the entire crop 
of Trinidad, with its 56 plantations and factories, with 14,092 workers, 
and 33,845 acres in cane. Trinidad's output per factory was 1,200 tons, 
approximately one-half of the Cuban average. 

The competition between Cuba and the British West Indies was 
a competition between the 18th and 19th centuries, and between steam 
and wind. The central of Cuba was as to the windmill of Barbados 
as the hare to the tortoise. Outside of British Guiana and Trinidad, 
the typical British West Indian factory was still producing muscovado 
sugar, and steam was the exception rather than the rule. James Watt 
might never have lived for all the effect his invention had on British 
West Indian sugar production. An observer of British West Indian 
society in 1835 had noted that the planters objected to the introduction 
of steam engines because of the scarcity of firewood. In 1894 about 
one factory in every five in Barbados was equipped with steam; the 
others were windmills. In Jamaica one in every four factories utilised 
water power. The proportion of factories using steam was slightly 
more than half in Tobago, about three-fifths in St Kitts-Nevis, slightly 
less than half in Montserrat. All but one of the factories in Antigua 
and St Kitts-Nevis, all but eight of those in Barbados, three-tenths of 
those in Jamaica, all of Montserrat's, one-fifth of Trinidad's, produced 
muscovado sugar, an indication of poor equipment. As was said in 
1835 of West Indian planters, *if the finest geologist of Europe were 
to ... state that indications of coal were evident in the formations 
of the neighbouring mountains ... no effort would be made to obtain 

A similar 'statu-quoitism', to quote a traveller in 1825, prevailed 
in field methods. The people of Jamaica made no novel experiments', 
wrote a visitor in 1835; 'they find sugar planted; and where it is they 
continue to cultivate it'. He added that they found the hoe the ancient 
instrument of the husbandman, and they had no desire to substitute 
the plough. In 1840 a Baptist missionary stated that the old methods 
were the rule, improvements the exception; the planters looked upon 
the practical knowledge of the 18th century as superior to the experi- 
ence and science of the 19th. Implemental husbandry was virtually 
unknown in St Vincent in 1860. The first steam plough was introduced 
into Antigua in 1863; it was only, this 'wonder working implement', 


as it was described in 1886, that helped the sugar industry of that 
island to keep going. 

The development of central factories, with their tendency to separate 
manufacture from agriculture, made no headway. In St Lucia it was 
objected to as involving 'a certain loss of independence and position'; 
it was rejected elsewhere as involving heavy costs in the transportation 
of cane. As the planters preferred the man with the hoe, so they re- 
mained devoted to the transportation of cane on the heads of workers 
or the backs of donkeys, and opposed the railway. Barbados continued 
to use up livestock at a rate which required replenishment of the entire 
stock every four years. As a result the size of the average plantation 
was 168 acres in Barbados, 178 acres in Jamaica, 193 acres in 
Antigua, as compared with 604 acres in Trinidad and 1,045 acres in 
British Guiana. 

The results were catastrophic. In St Vincent, in 1897, it was esti- 
mated that the sugar produced under the existing system was worth 
20,400; with a central factory it would have been worth 29,650, 
an increase of nearly fifty per cent. In Antigua the existing system 
required 13.37 tons of cane to make one ton of sugar; a central 
factory would have required ten tons, a saving of one quarter. Back- 
ward methods were costing the island 50,000 to 60,000 a year, repre- 
senting a loss of about one-half of the total sugar produced. The island 
chemist of Barbados estimated that the failure to develop central fac- 
tories represented a loss of six and a quarter pounds sterling per acre 
and a loss of 43 per cent in total production. An average loss of nearly 
one ton of sugar per acre was left in the canes after crushing; for 
every hundred pounds of sucrose in the juice, not more than seventy- 
five pounds of muscovado sugar were recovered, representing a loss 
of 25 per cent. If only half of the plantations of Barbados had adopted 
the central factory system, the result would have been to add 250,000, 
nearly 70 per cent of the exports, to the value of the sugar 

What improved methods of manufacture and machinery meant 
can be seen from estimates in British Guiana of the percentage of 
sugar that could be extracted from cane containing 12 per cent of 
fibre: single crushing, 76 per cent; double crushing (dry), 85 per 
cent; double crushing (with 12 per cent of dilution), 88 per cent; 
triple crushing (with ten per cent of dilution), 90 per cent; diffusion 
(with 25 per cent of dilution), 94 per cent. So slow were the British 
West Indian planters in adopting modern methods that, in 1870, the 
process of diffusion was installed in only one factory in Trinidad, 
as compared with 52 beet factories in Austria, 36 in Germany, 7 in 
Poland, 8 in Russia. The British West Indian planters justified their 
backwardness, in the words of the Antigua planters in 1897, on the 
ground that the profits derived from muscovado sugar were, until the 
nineties, so good that 'the proprietors were content, and had no motive 
for adopting improved machinery'. 

If Trinidad could not compete with Cuba, it could compete still 


less with Germany. The second enemy of the Trinidad sugar producer 
was beet sugar. In 1859-1860 total world beet production amounted 
to 451,584 tons, one-quarter of the world's total sugar production, 
slightly more than one-third of the world's total cane production, 
slightly less than two-thirds of total Caribbean production. In 1894- 
1895 total world beet production amounted to 4,725,800 tons, more 
than ten times as much as in 1859; it was three-fifths of the world's 
total sugar production, one-third more than the world's cane produc- 
tion, three and a quarter times the total Caribbean production. Beet 
sugar production, one-third more than Cuban production in 1859- 
1860, was four and a half times as large in 1894-1895. Two and a 
quarter times as much as British West Indian exports in the first year, 
it was eighteen times as large in the second. 

Thus, four hundred years after Columbus' introduction into the 
Caribbean of the sugar cane which has dominated its history, the 
world's most important sugar producer was the very country which 
had signally failed to get a place in the Caribbean sun. Germany 
produced more sugar than all the Caribbean territories put together. 

Austria-Hungary ranked third, after Germany and Cuba, among 
the world's producers. France occupied fourth place, and Russia fifth. 
Belgian beet production exceeded British West Indian cane production. 
Holland produced more sugar than the French, Dutch, Danish terri- 
tories and Puerto Rico combined. 

It is no wonder that it was reported that in the early years of the 
19th century, Britain had tried to bribe the French chemist, Achard, 
in order to get him not to publish his revolutionary discovery of sugar 
from the beet. 

The development of the European beet sugar industry was more 
striking than the developments which had taken place in the Carib- 
bean, and in their day, astounded the world. The European beet sugar 
industry represented the triumph of science and technology. Beet was 
the great school of scientific agriculture. Where the Caribbean planter 
remained dependent on the man with the hoe, the beet cultivator 
introduced deep ploughing, substituting a plough that went to a depth 
often to eleven inches for the conventional plough which went only 
four to six inches. Beet introduced a new element into the agricultural 
rotation, and the methods it required stimulated a vast increase in 
the yield of cereals. Well adapted to small holdings, the industry was 
based on a separation of the agricultural and industrial phases, brought 
winter employment to the countryside, checked the drift to the towns, 
and provided an enormous quantity of cattle feed. Pointing to the 
more than one million unemployed in England, a propagandist for 
the beet sugar industry asked in 1911: *can our Government take a 
wiser step and find a better remedy for settling the question of the 
unemployed than by giving the homeless and starving creatures 
permanent work in a healthy environment by means of an indigenous 
sugar industry?' By concentrating on producing better varieties, with 
a greater sugar content, German science was able to reduce the quality 


of roots needed to make one ton of sugar from 18 in 1836 to 11 in 

The developments in the field were eclipsed by the more spectacular 
progress in the factory. In 1836 Germany's beet production was pro- 
duced in 122 factories; the average output per factory was less than 
twelve tons. In 1866 the largest factory, Waghausel, worked 66,000 
tons of beet; with 12.60 pounds of beets needed to make one pound 
of sugar in the country as a whole, this represented an output of over 
5,000 tons of sugar. There were 296 factories in that year, which 
produced 201,240 tons of sugar, an average per factory of 679 tons. 
In 1896 Germany's record production of 1,821,223 tons was pro- 
duced in 397 factories, an average of 4,587 tons per factory, three- 
quarters more than that of Cuba. Barbados had more factories 
than Germany for a sugar export which was one-thirty-sixth of Ger- 
man production. Eleven factories in Germany were needed to produce 
what Barbados' 440 factories exported in that year; about four to pro- 
duce what Jamaica's 140 exported. The average output per factory 
in Trinidad was slightly more than one-quarter of the German 
average, in British Guiana about one-third. 

Austria-Hungary, with 217 factories in 1896, was only slightly be- 
hind Germany; the average output per factory was 4,276 tons. The 
average in France was 2,024 tons. In 1897 there were nine factories 
in operation in the United States, representing an average output of 
4,170 tons. 

Beet sugar manufacture required an enormous investment of capital. 
The editor of the Chemical Journal in England estimated in 1870 that 
it would require an investment of 13,157 for a factory to handle the 
roots from 500 acres and produce slightly more than 500 tons of sugar. 
In 1868 the cost of manufacturing 20,000 tons of beetroot - approx- 
imately 1,000 tons of beet sugar- was estimated at 30,630. The thirty 
beet factories in the United States in 1899 represented a capital in- 
vestment of $20,959,000, nearly $700,000 per factory. It was estimated 
in 1911 that, in order to make Great Britain self-sufficient in sugar, 
it would require 500 factories, each costing 80,000. 

Large profits were made in the beet sugar industry. In 1867-1868 
the Jerxhelm factory, one of the best in Germany, reaped a profit of 
$39,310 on total costs of production amounting to $101,368. Baruch- 
son in 1868, estimated that a profit of 25 per cent would be obtained 
from the manufacture of 20,000 tons of beetroot, if 6 per cent sugar 
were extracted; if the extraction was 8 per cent, however, the profit 
would increase to 48 per cent. The estimates of the editor of 
the Chemical Journal in 1870 were net profits of 6,490 if 8 per cent of 
sugar were extracted, and 10,090, if 10 per cent; on the capital invest- 
ment of 13,157, these rates amounted to 50 and 75 per cent, 

It would appear that this combination of science, technology, capital 
and profits made beet superior to cane. In reality, this was not so. The 
decisive advantage which cane enjoyed over beet was its superior 


sucrose content, a gap which European and American science was 
able to narrow but not close. According to the report of the Commis- 
sioner of Agriculture of the United States for 1869, the product of 
sugar per acre from the cane in the West Indies was nearly twice that 
from the beet in Europe, the percentage of saccharine matter being 
as 18 to 10. According to the West India Royal Commission of 1897, 
the yield per acre was 18 tons of cane in Trinidad and Martinique 
as compared with 10.7 tons of beet in France and 12.85 tons in 

But superior science and technology discounted natural advantages. 
The extraction of sugar was 12-J- per cent in Germany, nearly 11 per 
cent in France, 9| per cent in Trinidad, 9 per cent in British Guiana, 
7J per cent in Martinique. The cost of manufacturing one ton of sugar 
was as follows: 

BEET Germany (1894) $49.60 

France (1894) 50.70 

CANE Trinidad (1896) 48.70 

British Guiana (1895) 52.48 

Martinique (1893) 76.32 

Egypt (1893) 44.16 

Queensland (1893) 41.90 

Thus, despite the superior science and technology of the beet sugar 
industry, cane was cheaper than beet -though not in the British and 
French West Indies. The reason why beet threatened to supplant cane 
in the world market lies in the deliberate encouragement given by 
the countries concerned to the beet sugar industry, precisely the 
encouragement which had been given by the metropolitan countries 
concerned to the Caribbean producers in the seventeenth and 
eighteenth centuries. Known generally as the bounty system, the policy 
involved a substantial subsidy on exports which permitted the beet 
manufacturer to dump sugar on the world market, even below the 
cost of production, whilst he was assured of a protected domestic 
market. The very monopoly which had built up the Caribbean was 
now trained against it. Europe, over which Britain, France, Spain, 
Holland and Portugal had competed for three hundred years for the 
privilege of supplying it with sugar, became an exporter of sugar on 
a large scale. The German premium on exports rose from 21 per cent 
in 1876 to 60 per cent in 1884. The German excise on the raw material, 
reduced by a drawback on exportation, declined from 58 million 
marks in 1881 to 14 million in 1887. 

The struggle between beet and cane was in reality a struggle chiefly 
for the British sugar market. The British West Indies lost their 
monopoly of that market in 1852, when the protectionist duties on 
sugar were repealed. It was the high water mark of Britain's free trade 
policy. Thereafter Britain's interest was to buy in the cheapest market. 
The following table indicates the consequences of that policy: 


British Imports % British % Foreign 

Year (tons) %Beet Cane Cane 

1853 1,476,714 14 17 69 

1863 2,005,637 23 17 60 

1873 2,951,152 38 12 50 

1882 3,799,284 47 13 40 

1896 1,526,000 75 10 15 

Thus it was neither science, nor technology, nor availability of 
capital, nor the rate of profit which explained the triumph of beet over 
cane. It was Britain's free trade policy and her desire for cheap sugar. 
It was that policy and that desire which gave rise to and stimulated 
the greatest mockery and the very antithesis of free trade, the bounty 
system. In 1884 it was estimated that Britain's annual gain from the 
bounty system was 2,750,000, and that, in the thirteen years preced- 
ing 1883, Britain had gained 28 million. British per capita consump- 
tion of sugar increased from 68.7 pounds in 1890 to 83.7 in 1900. The 
price of ordinary refined sugar fell from 28/~ per cwt. in 1882 to 13/- 
in 1896. Unrefined beet fell from 21 /- to 10/-; unrefined cane from 
21 /- to nearly ll/-. The British public, refiners, manufacturers of 
jams and candies benefited. 

That was the decisive factor. In a report to the Board of Trade in 
1884, it was stated: 

'The obvious conclusion . . . would be that even admitting the 
injury to the complaining interests from the bounty system to be 
as great as alleged, still the interest of the people of the United 
Kingdom in cheap sugar preponderates so greatly that that injury, 
in the interests of the majority, and apart from all question as to 
the intrinsic objectionableness of any possible remedy, should be 

Trinidad and the West Indies found a temporary relief in the United 
States market. British West Indian exports to the United States in- 
creased from 630 tons in 1853 to 115,105 tons in 1883. Trinidad 
became almost completely dependent on the United States market. 
For the five-year period 1881-1885, 51 per cent of Trinidad's sugar 
exports went to the United States as compared with 46 per cent to the 
United Kingdom. For the period 1886-1890, the proportion was 67 
per cent to the United States and 32 to the United Kingdom; and for 
the period 1891-1895, the proportion was 55 per cent to the United 
States and 44 per cent to the United Kingdom. Never was there a 
more curious Crown Colony in the world. Trinidad was a colony 
forced by the British Crown to import thousands of workers from 
India to produce sugar two-thirds of which had to be sold in the 
market of the United States of America. It seemed as if, to paraphrase 
a witticism of Professor Merrivale lecturing to his students at Oxford 
several years before, the colony of Trinidad was being retained by 
Britain for the mere pleasure of governing it. 


But the foundations of Trinidad's sugar industry were shaky in 
the extreme. President Hayes of the United States had declared in 
his farewell address that he believed that, by 1884, the United States 
would no longer need foreign sugar. The last decade of the 19th 
century saw tremendous efforts to increase American sugar produc- 
tion: in 1889 the State of Iowa exempted from taxation until January 
I, 1910, later extended to January 1, 1917, the property on beet sugar 
manufactured including the capital investment and the personal prop- 
erty used in connection with the business. In 1895 Minnesota provided 
a bounty of one cent per pound on sugar manufactured in that State, 
and Michigan followed suit in 1897 with a bounty of two cents per 

The bankruptcy of the British West Indian sugar industry coin- 
cided with the 1896 platform of the Republican Party: 'We condemn 
the present Administration for not keeping faith with the sugar pro- 
ducers of this country. The Republican party favours such protection 
as will lead to the production on American soil of all of the sugar 
which the American people use, and for which they pay other coun- 
tries more than $100,000,000 annually'. A leaflet of the American 
Beet Sugar Industry, circulated widely in the presidential campaign 
of that year, estimated that the production of the 1,804,866 tons of 
sugar imported by the United States in 1895 would require 920 fac- 
tories with a capacity of 350 "tons of beet each for each working day 
of 24 hours. Each factory would work up the product of 2,000 acres 
of beet -thus calling for a total acreage of 1,840,000 acres. The in- 
dustry would give employment to people who would represent a popu- 
lation of 2,500,000. The farmer would receive $4.20 per ton of beets; 
the farm payroll would be $77,280,000. The labour pay roll would 
amount to $17,599,600. The total annual expenditure for the 920 
factories would be $122,496,160. 

The development of the beet sugar industry was marked by a 
powerful propagandist appeal directed against the cane sugar industry 
on the ground that cane sugar required slave, 'coolie', contract, or 
some form of degraded labour, black, brown or yellow, whereas the 
beet sugar industry was the product of white and free labour. The 
pattern was first developed in France, in the decade of the thirties. 
Beet and cane, wrote Lestiboudois, in a memorandum entitled Des 
Colonies Sucrieres et des Sucreries Indigenes, read to the Royal 
Society of Science, Agriculture and the Arts of Lille in 1839, were 
chemically similar but industrially dissimilar. Cane production, he 
said, was based on 'exceptional and barbaric principles': it regarded 
the Negroes as 'inert machines for sugar . . . beasts of burden to go 
to market . . . animate material property'. In the opinion of another 
writer in the same year, Dehay, cane cultivation was based on 'ante- 
diluvian manners ... (a) social regime antipathetic to our age'. 

The moral note enjoyed great vogue in the second half of the nine- 
teenth century, particularly in the United States. Every civilised 
country, wrote the Commissioner of Agriculture in 1868, had 'exerted 


itself to secure emancipation from slave-grown cane sugar, and to 
stop the flow of money to a few colonies. Without the United States 
as a regular customer, Cuba and Brazil might as well give up growing 
sugar, and direct their attention to a more healthy occupation'. The 
Commissioner discreetly refrained from referring to Louisiana, which 
had fought a civil war for four years to prevent the United States 
from emancipating itself from its own slave-grown cane sugar. 

H. T. Oxnard, the president of the American Beet Sugar Associa- 
tion, in hearings before the Ways and Means Committee of the House 
of Representatives on December 30, 1896, distinguished himself by 
the vigour of his attack on cheap labour contracts, cheap Asiatic and 
Hawaiian labour and raw material, and the '24 to 48-cent labour in 
some cases, and coolie labour in other instances', which made it im- 
possible for California or Nebraska to compete, According to a 
United States official, there was a vast difference, from a moral, civic, 
or philanthropic standpoint, between beet and cane. 'Whenever you 
see a success of cane sugar production', it was stated in a pamphlet 
of the British Beet Sugar Council, 'you will notice it is a blight on 
everything else. You will find the employers in the fields and factory 
ignorant, degraded, poorly clothed and fed, and with no social advant- 
ages whatever. A beet sugar factory presents an entirely different 
picture. You will find every convenience of a prosperous civilised 
community, and that it has attracted to itself a busy centre endowed 
with all modern improvements ... To the district come all the social 
and educational advantages that accrue to closer association of 

In 1870 the editor of the Chemical Journal estimated that the grow- 
ing of one acre of beet required 46 days of human labour (partly 
children's) and 14 days of horse labour, whereas one acre of cane in 
the West Indies required 172 days of human labour. 

Much of this propaganda against sugar produced by some slave 
labour in Trinidad and the West Indies was so much wool drawn over 
the eyes of the people of Europe and America. According to the Com- 
missioner of Agriculture in the United States, wages for men in Ger- 
many were 3H cents a day for carrying beets and 19 cents for girls 
for topping and trimming them. In the early 20th century, wages for 
field labour in the beet sugar industry were 25 cents a day in Russia, 
36 cents a day in Denmark, 45 cents a day in Hungary, and 47 cents 
a day in Germany. A study produced in the United States of America 
in 1935 showed that the beet sugar industry had become dominated 
by contract labour from Mexico, and that the average annual income 
of beet families for the entire season in that year was $340. Those who 
lived in glass houses in America and Europe had no business throwing 
stones .at Trinidad. 

But that is by the way, necessary though it is at all times to defend 
the people of Trinidad and Tobago against their detractors abroad 
It was the economics that mattered and not social considerations. Trini- 
dad and the West Indies could not compete with Cuban cane or 


German beet, and the American market became increasingly closed 
to it. Thus in 1897, after 50 years of indentured Indian immigration 
in Trinidad and British Guiana, the British West Indies sugar industry 
was faced with total extinction. So the British Government, as usual, 
sent out a Royal Commission. 

What was the Royal Commission to do? It was bounty-fed Euro- 
pean beet sugar that was ruining the West Indies. The Board of Trade 
had said quite emphatically in 1885 that that was just too bad, it could 
not be helped. And what did the West India Royal Commission of 
1897 think of this? 

The Commission disagreed with the Board of Trade. The benefit 
which the British Empire as a whole derives from any lowering of the 
price of sugar due to the operation of the bounty system is too dearly 
purchased by the injury which that system imposes on a limited class, 
namely Your Majesty's West Indian and other subjects dependent on 
the sugar industry'. The Commission emphasised the certain conse- 
quences of the extinction of the British West Indian sugar industry. 
It contented itself, however, with the modest recommendation that 
'the abolition of the bounty system is an object at which Your 
Majesty's Government should aim, if they should see their way to 
securing that result, and that the accomplishment of such an end is 
worth some sacrifice . . .' 

But it did not feel itself in a position to make recommendations 
of practical value towards securing the abolition of the bounty system. 
The West Indians recommended the imposition of countervailing 
duties on bounty-fed beet sugar; the Commission doubted the efficacy 
and wisdom of such a measure which involved 'the danger, direct and 
indirect, of departing from what has hitherto been considered to be 
the settled policy of the United Kingdom*. The West Indians urged 
the extension of the bounty system to West Indian sugar. The Com- 
mission found itself unable to recommend this course, which might so 
stimulate production as to cause a further fall in price which would 
neutralise its effect. The West Indies found themselves in the posi- 
tion of a patient suffering from a mortal disease, whose physician 
propounded all the reasons why he could not perform the operation 
necessary to restore the patient to health. 

The British West Indies, with their long practice in crying 'wolf, 
blamed the bounty system for their difficulties, as if to say that, with- 
out bounties, their eighteenth century fossils could have held their 
own against German technology. But, emphasised the report to the 
Board of Trade, 'the gain to the people of the United Kingdom by the 
present excess reduction of prices, according to the calculation of the 
West India Committee, viz, 5,000,000 1., is more than equal to the 
whole annual value of the exports of sugar from the West Indies. 

What help, then, could the Royal Commission provide? It empha- 
sised that one of the great advantages of the encouragement of a Negro 
peasantry would have been a greater local production of food and 
a larger measure of insular self-sufficiency. With respect to Antigua, 


it noted that the island had imported, in 1896, 8,065 barrels of corn- 
meal, valued at 3,573, when corn could be grown as cheaply as in 
any part of the world; 37,157 bushels of corn and grain, valued at 
3,296; 637,101 pounds of meat, valued at 6,437; 633,394 pounds 
of oilmeal and oilcake for manures, valued at 1,423. All of these 
articles, the Commission asserted, might have been advantageously 
produced by persons not engaged in the sugar industry. 
The Commission therefore made its most famous recommendation : 

'It seems to us that no reform affords so good a prospect for the 
permanent welfare in the future of the West Indies as the settle- 
ment of the labouring population on the land as small peasant pro- 
prietors ... It must be recollected that the chief outside influence 
with which the Governments of certain colonies have to reckon 
are the representatives of the sugar estates, that these persons are 
sometimes not interested in anything but sugar, that the establish- 
ment of any other industry is often detrimental to their interests, 
and that under such conditions it is the special duty of Your 
Majesty's Government to see that the welfare of the general public 
is not sacrificed to the interests, or supposed interests, of a small 
but influential minority which has special means of enforcing its 
wishes and bringing its claims to notice . . , The settlement of the 
labouring population on the land, and the encouragement of the 
products and forms of cultivation suitable for a class of peasant 
proprietors formed no part of their policy ... If a different policy 
had found favour the condition of the West Indies might have been 
much less serious than it is at present in view of the probable failure 
of the sugar industry.' 

It was nice to know, in 1897, that Britain had backed the wrong 
horse in 1833. But that was small comfort to the West Indies. 

The Commission recommended the growth locally of more of the 
food that was imported and greater attention to the fruit trade. It 
further recommended agricultural and industrial education and a 
department of economic botany to assist the small proprietors; how- 
ever, it opposed the establishment of agricultural banks and hesitated 
to recommend any system of state loans to the small farmer on the 
ground that it was likely to be mismanaged. 

The Commission's recommendations in respect of small fanning 
and local food production were admirable, as far as they went. But 
they did not go very far. As the sequel was to show, they were not 
worth the paper they were written on, and the British Government to 
whom they were addressed seems to have done nothing to secure 
their implementation. In addition, if the British Government needed 
someone to go to Trinidad and the West Indies to advise it on this 
score, it had, long before 1897, similar and more powerful recom- 
mendations from someone more influential than any of the Commis- 
sioners of 1897. That someone was Charles Kingsley, the distinguished 


novelist, who visited the West Indies and wrote a famous book At 
Last: A Christmas in the West Indies published in 187L 

If the British Government did not like what Sewell, the American 
newspaperman, had had to say a decade earlier, surely it might have 
been willing to listen to Kingsley. Kingsley addressed himself parti- 
cularly to the question of the peasantry in Trinidad in his considera- 
tion of the general problem of the future economic development of 
the West Indies, and he emerged with this analysis of the problem 
and these recommendations for the future : 

*. . . What will be the future of agriculture in the West Indian 
colonies I of course dare not guess. The profits of sugar-growing, 
in spite of all drawbacks, have been of late very great; they will 
be greater still under the improved methods of manufacture which 
will be employed now that the sugar duties have been at least 
rationally reformed; and therefore, for some time to come, capital 
will naturally flow toward sugar-planting, and great sheets of the 
forest will be, too probably, ruthlessly and wastefully swept away to 
make room for canes. And yet one must ask, regretfully, are there 
no other cultures save that of cane which will yield a fair, even 
an ample return to men of small capital and energetic habits? What 
of the culture of bamboo for paper-fibre, of which I have spoken 
already? It has been, I understand, taken up successfully in Jamaica, 
to supply the United States' paper market. Why should it not be 
taken up in Trinidad? Why should not plantain-meal be hereafter 
largely exported for the use of the English working classes? Why 
should not Trinidad, and other islands, export fruits - preserved 
fruits especially? Surely such a trade might be profitable, if only 
a quarter as much care were taken in the West Indies as is taken in 
England to improve the varieties by selection and culture; and care 
taken also not to spoil the preserves, as now, for the English market, 
by swamping them with sugar or sling. Can nothing be done in grow- 
ing the oil-producing seeds with which the tropics abound, and for 
which a demand is rising in England, if it be only for use about 
machinery? Nothing, too, toward growing drugs for the home 
market? Nothing toward using the treasures of gutta-percha which 
are now wasting in the Balatas? Above all, can nothing be done to 
increase the yield of the cocoa-farms, and the quality of Trinidad 
cocoa? . . . 

*. . . As an advocate of "petite culture", I heartily hope that such 
may be the case. I have hinted in this volume my belief that exclu- 
sive sugar cultivation, on the large scale, has been the bane of the 
West Indies. 

*I went out thither with a somewhat foregone conclusion in that 
direction, but it was at least founded on what I believed to be facts, 
and it was certainly verified by the fresh facts which I saw there. 
I returned with a belief stronger than ever that exclusive sugar 
cultivation had put a premium on unskilled slave labour, to the 


disadvantage of skilled white labour; and to the disadvantage, also 
of any attempt to educate and raise the negro, whom it was not 
worth while to civilise as long as he was needed merely as an instru- 
ment exerting brute strength. It seems to me also, that to the 
exclusive cultivation of sugar is owing, more than to any other 
cause, that frightful decrease throughout the island of the white 
population, of which most English people are, I believe, quite 

*. . . The West Indian might have had -the Cuban has -his 
tobacco; his indigo too; his coffee, or -as in Trinidad -his cocao 
and his arrow-root, and half a dozen crops more; indeed, had his 
intellect - and he had intellect in plenty -been diverted from the 
fatal fixed idea of making money as fast as possible by sugar, he 
might have ere now discovered in America, or imported from the 
East, plants for cultivation far more valuable than that bread-fruit 
tree, of which such high hopes were once entertained as a food for 
the negro. As it was, his very green crops were neglected, till, in 
some islands at least, he could not feed his cattle and mules with 
certainty, while the sugarcane, to which everything else had been 
sacrificed, proved sometimes, indeed, a valuable servant, but too 
often a tyrannous and capricious master. 

'But those days are past, and better ones have dawned, with better 
education, and a wider knowledge of the world and of science. 
What West Indians have to learn -some of them have learned it 
already - is that, if they can compete with other countries only by 
improved and more scientific cultivation and manufacture, as they 
themselves confess, then they can carry out the new methods only 
by more skilful labour. They therefore require now, as they never 
required before, to give the labouring class a practical education; 
to quicken their intellect, and to teach them habits of self-dependent 
and originative action, which are -as in the case of the Prussian 
soldier, and of the English sailor and railway servant -perfectly 
compatible with strict discipline. Let them take warning from the 
English manufacturing system, which condemns a human intellect 
to waste itself in perpetually heading pins, or opening and shutting 
trap-doors, and punishes itself by producing a class of work-people 
who alternate between reckless comfort and moody discontent. Let 
them be sure that they will help rather than injure the labour-market 
of the colony by making the labourer also a small freeholding 
peasant. He will learn more in his own provision-ground, properly 
tilled, than he will in the cane-piece; and he will take to the cane- 
piece, and use for his employer, the self -helpfulness which he has 
learned in the provision-ground. It is so in England. Our best 
agricultural day-labourers are, without exception, those who culti- 
vate some scrap of ground, or follow some petty occupation, which 
prevents their depending entirely on wage-labour. And so I believe 
it will be in the West Indies. Let the land-policy of the late governor 
be followed up. Let squatting be rigidly forbidden. Let no man hold 


possession of land without having earned, or inherited, money 
enough to purchase it, as a guarantee of his ability and respect- 
ability, or -as in the case of Coolies past their indentures - as a 
communication for rights which he has earned in likewise. But let 
the coloured man of every race be encouraged to become a land- 
holder and a producer in his own small way. He will thus, not only 
by what he produces, but by what he consumes, add largely to the 
wealth of the colony; while his increased wants, and those of his 
children, till they too can purchase land, will draw him and his sons 
and daughters to the sugar-estates as intelligent and helpful day- 

Sewell had said as much a decade before. Pere Labat, one of the 
great Catholic missionaries who lived for many years in the West 
Indies, had said as much and more nearly two centuries before. Storm 
van's Gravesande, Dutch Governor of Guiana, had said as much a 
century before about the prospects of economic diversification. The 
British Governor of British Guiana had said as much over fifty years 
before. The British Government remained wedded to the policy of 
production of sugar which they would not buy, and then sent out a 
Commission in 1897 to tell them that they should not have encouraged 
the colonies to produce sugar, and that where the sugar industry had 
died out or was dying out -as in Tobago, Grenada, Montserrat, St 
Vincent - nothing should be done to encourage its resuscitation or 

In terms of pecuniary assistance, to assist the West Indies in tiding 
over their financial difficulties, the Commission's recommendations 
were modest in the extreme. They were as follows : 

(a) a loan of 120,000 to Barbados for the establishment of central 

(b) a grant of 27,000 for ten years for the establishment of minor 
agricultural industries, improved inter-island communications, 
and the encouragement of the fruit trade (the Commission's 
recommendation could hardly have been described as revolu- 

(c) a grant of 20,000 for five years to the smaller islands to assist 
them to meet their ordinary expenditure of an obligatory 

(d) a grant of 30,000 to Dominica and St Vincent for road con- 
struction and land settlement. 

So ended the first century of Crown Colony rule in Trinidad and 
Tobago. Three centuries of Spanish colonialism had ended in nothing. 
One century of British colonialism, with all the pomp and power of 
metropolitan rule which Britain refused to surrender to the colonials, 
with thousands of immigrants permitted to be imported in a state of 
semi-servitude at public expense to produce sugar to which Britain 
refused to give any special consideration, and which the USA refused 


to buy - one century of British colonialism had ended in nothing. 

The 1897 Commission emphasised that 'we have placed the labour- 
ing population where it is, and created for it the conditions, moral 
and material under which it exists, and we cannot divest ourselves 
of responsibility for its future.' Brave and noble thoughts. But what 
did the Commission have to say about the labouring population intro- 
duced with the full approval and at the direction of the British Govern- 
ment to produce sugar with the full approval of the British Govern- 
ment? Merely this: 

*If there is a great and sudden reduction in the sugar industry, 
there might be a considerable temporary expenditure in providing 
for labourers, and especially for East Indian immigrants. The 
expenditure would be very heavy if any large number of immi- 
grants claimed, as they might do, to be returned to India at the 
public expense, but we are disposed to agree . . . that there would 
not be any general desire on the part of the Indian coolies to return. 
In any case it will be more easy to provide at short notice for the 
settlement of coolies on Crown and other lands in Trinidad than 
it would be in British Guiana. There is, therefore, less probability 
of a sudden and overwhelming demand being made on public funds 
for return passages. 

'The question of the assistance given to immigration at the 
expense of the public revenue is one that requires careful considera- 
tion. We are of opinion that if any industry requires immigrants 
it should pay the whole cost connected with their introduction. It 
is argued that the introduction of immigrants is a benefit to the 
whole Colony, and that the whole Colony should pay a proportion 
of the cost of introducing them. This view as to the introduction 
of immigrants being a benefit to the whole Colony is not held by 
those persons with whom the immigrants compete in the labour 
market, and if the argument were pushed to its logical conclusion 
it would follow that every industry should get a bonus from the 
State, as every industry is a gain to the whole community. It has, 
however, been pressed upon us by evidence which we cannot dis- 
regard, that at the present time, and under present conditions, 
indentured labourers are absolutely necessary to carrying on of 
the sugar estates. It would be a calamity, not only to the owner of 
the estates, but to the general community, to take any steps that 
must have the effect of intensifying the existing depression, and, 
whatever our recommendation might have been if the question of 
State assistance to immigration were now raised for the first time, 
we are not prepared to say that such assistance should now be with- 
drawn. We are, however, of opinion that the number of immigrants 
to be introduced every year should be reduced to the minimum 
that will suffice for the working of the existing estates, and that 
State assistance in air of immigration should ultimately cease.' 

So the Crown Colony system had, after sixty odd years, recognised 


its mistake. And what was its solution? Continue to pour good money 
after bad -but don't pour so much, and, above all, don't ask the 
'mother country' for any aid. 

It has become in the last twenty years very fashionable to say that 
Trinidad is wealthy, and that such financial assistance as is available 
should be given to poorer countries. As it is now, so it was in 
the beginning* 

The Government Statistician of Trinidad and Tobago made a com- 
parison in 1899 of Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados and 
British Guiana, He arrived at the following conclusions in respect of 
the per capita revenue, imports and exports of the four colonies: 

Colony Revenue Imports Exports 

Trinidad and Tobago .... 110,40 $40.22 $40.90 

Jamaica 4.94 11.95 10.99 

Barbados 4,61 26.73 19.44 

British Guiana 9.00 23.57 30.48 

The population of the colonies at the time was: Trinidad and 
Tobago, 273,655; Jamaica, 727,636; Barbados, 190,000; British 
Guiana 279,407. 

The Commission of 1897 thought therefore that Trinidad could 
well depend on its own resources. It wrote: 'On the whole, we are 
of opinion that, notwithstanding the critical state of the sugar industry, 
the resources of Trinidad will probably suffice to meet the claims 
against her if they are carefully husbanded, and if no delay takes 
place in the adoption of measures for enforcing greater economy in 
public expenditure.' It never dawned on the Commission, or, as we 
shall see, on the British Government, that the time had come to let 
the people of the Colony manage their own affairs- if only because 
they could not have made a greater mess of things than the Crown 
Colony system had made from 1797 to 1897. 


Crown Colony Government 

The Royal Commission of 1897 came, saw, and was conquered, 
Britain had made Trinidad a Crown Colony in the first instance to 
make sure that the Crown could govern without the impediment of 
local elected assemblies. The 1897 Royal Commission made it clear 
not only that Britain had failed to settle the economic problems of 
Trinidad at the expense of the Trinidad taxpayer, but that Britain 
could not be expected to do so at the expense of the British taxpayer. 
It was power without responsibility. It was power for the mere sake 
of power. 

In 1884, however, Britain was forced to restore to Jamaica a 
measure of the representative Government which had been suspended 
in 1865. This was the signal for the initiation in Trinidad of a move- 
ment for constitution reform which led to the appointment of the 
Royal Franchise Commission of 1888. 

It was at this time that James Anthony Froude decided to visit the 
West Indies. He left London in December 1886, and arrived in Trini- 
dad early in the new year. Well known for his imperialist outlook 
and his hatred of Irishmen and Catholics, Froude has left us an 
account of his travels, The English in the West Indies, which not only 
affords a valuable insight into the official British mentality of the 
period but also provided part of the training for British officials in 
Trinidad in subsequent years, when a degree from Oxford or Cam- 
bridge was still the necessary passport to a career in Parliament, or 
the Diplomatic Service, or the Colonial Service. 

Political demonstrations and agitation for constitution reform are 
an important part of the Trinidadian's heritage. It is useful therefore, 
however amusing it may sound today, to read Froude's account of a 
political demonstration for constitution reform in the Queen's Park 
Savannah. Froude's account reads: 

'The political demonstration to which I had been invited came 
off the next day on the savannah. The scene was pretty enough. 
Black coats and white trousers, bright-coloured dresses and pink 
parasols, look the same at a distance whether the wearer has a black 
face or a white one, and the broad meadow was covered over with 
sparkling groups. Several thousands persons must have attended, 
not all to hear the oratory, for the occasion had been taken when 
the Governor was to play close by in a cricket match, and half the 
crowd had probably collected to see His Excellency at the wicket. 
Placards had been posted about the town, setting out the purpose 
of the meeting. Trinidad, as I said, is at present a Crown colony, 
the executive council and the legislature being equally nominated 



by the authorities. The popular orators, the newspaper writers, and 
some of the leading merchants in Port-of-Spain had discovered, 
as I said, that they were living under what they called "a degrading 
tyranny". They had no grievances, or none that they alleged, beyond 
the general one that they had no control over the finance. They 
very naturally desired that the lucrative Government appointments 
for which the colony paid should be distributed among themselves. 
The elective principle had been reintroduced in Jamaica, evidently 
as a step towards the restoration of the full constitution which had 
been surrendered and suppressed after the Gordon riots. Trinidad 
was almost as large as Jamaica, in proportion to the population 
wealthier and more prosperous, and the people were invited to come 
together in overwhelming numbers to insist that the "tyranny" 
should end. The Home Government in their action about Jamaica 
had shown a spontaneous readiness to transfer responsibility from 
themselves to the inhabitants. The promoters of the meeting at Port- 
of-Spain may have thought that a little pressure on their part might 
not be unwelcome as an excuse for further concessions of the same 
kind. Whether this was so I do not know. At any rate they showed 
that they were as yet novices in the art of agitation. The language of 
the placard of invitation was so violent that, in the opinion of the 
legal authorities, the printer might have been indicted for high 
treason. The speakers did their best to imitate the fine phrases of 
the apostles of liberty in Europe, but they succeeded only in carica- 
turing their absurdities. The proceedings were described at length 
in the rival newspapers. One gentleman's speech was said to have 
been so brilliant that every sentence was a "gem of oratory", the 
gem of gems being when he told his hearers that, "if they went into 
the thing at all, they should go the entire animal." All went off good- 
humouredly. In the Liberal journal the event of the day was spoken 
of as the most magnificent demonstration in favour of human free- 
dom which had ever been seen in the West Indian Islands. In the 
Conservative journal it was called a ridiculous fiasco, and the people 
were said to have come together only to admire the Governor's 
batting, and to laugh at the nonsense which was coming from the 
platform. Finally, the same journal assured us that, beyond a hand- 
ful of people who were interested in getting hold of the anticipated 
spoils of office, no one in the island cared about the matter. 

The result, I believe, was some petition or other which would 
go home and pass as evidence, to minds eager to believe, that Trini- 
dad was rapidly ripening for responsible government, promising 
relief to an overburdened Secretary for the Colonies, who has more 
to do than he can attend to, and is pleased with opportunities of 
gratifying popular sentiment, or of showing off in Parliament the 
development of colonial institutions.' 

This was in 1887, a mere 75 years before the Independence of 
Trinidad & Tobago. The Professor of Modern History at Oxford 


University could interpret a political demonstration for constitution 
reform as nothing but a desire on the part of the majority of the crowd 
to see the Governor bat in a cricket match, or nothing more than a 
desire on the part of ambitious Trinidad politicians to share in the 
spoils of office. Not a single word from Froude about the attack on 
the Crown colony system which Lechmere Guppy was to make one 
year later before the Royal Franchise Commission. Not a single word 
from Froude about the demands which were to be presented to the 
Royal Franchise Commission of 1888 for the extension of the right 
to vote to Negroes and Indians. Not a single word from Froude about 
the attack which Sir Henry Alcazar was to make ten years later on 
indentured Indian immigration before the Royal Commission of 1897. 
Not a single word from Froude about the economic difficulties of 
sugar production in the light of Britain's policy to beet sugar which 
were to dominate the report of the Royal Commission of 1897. Not a 
single word from Froude about the semi-servitude to which the inden- 
tured Indian immigrants were consigned under the laws which were 
consolidated by the Ordinance of 1899. 

As far as Froude was concerned, Crown colony government had 
nothing to do with economic development, Crown colony government 
had nothing to do with the training of the inhabitants for self- 
government, Crown colony government had nothing to do with the 
participation of the people of the colony in their political affairs. 
Crown colony government was there, and was there to stay. Froude 
envisaged no change whatsoever. He continued his narrative of his 
experiences in Trinidad as follows: 

*But why, it may be asked, should not Trinidad govern itself as 
well as Tasmania or New Zealand? Why not Jamaica, why not all 
the West Indian Islands? I will answer by another question. Do 
we wish these islands to remain as part of the British Empire? Are 
they of any use to us, or have we responsbilities connected with 
them of which we are not entitled to divest ourselves? A govern- 
ment elected by the majority of the people (and no one would think 
of setting up constitutions on any other basis) reflects from the 
nature of things the character of the electors. All these islands tend 
to become partitioned into black peasant proprietaries. In Grenada 
the process is almost complete. In Trinidad it is rapidly advancing. 
No one can stop it. No one ought to wish to stop it. But the owner- 
ship of freeholds is one thing, and political power is another. The 
blacks depend for the progress which they may be capable of mak- 
ing on the presence of a white community among them; and al- 
though it is undesirable or impossible for the blacks to be ruled by 
the minority of the white residents, it is equally undesirable and 
equally impossible that the whites should be ruled by them. The 
relative numbers of the two races being what they are, responsible 
government in Trinidad means government by a black parliament 
and a black ministry. The negro voters might elect, to begin with, 


their half-caste attorneys or such whites (the most disreputable of 
their colour) as would court their suffrages. But the black does not 
love the mulatto, and despises the white man who consents to be 
his servant. He has no grievances. He is not naturally a politician, 
and if left alone with his own patch of land, will never trouble him- 
self to look further. But he knows what has happened in St Dom- 
ingo. He has heard that his race is already in full possession of the 
finest of all the islands. If he has any thought or any hopes about 
the matter, it is that it may be with the rest of them as it has been 
with St Domingo, and if you force the power into his hands, you 
must expect him to use it. Under the constitution which you would 
set up, whites and blacks may be nominally equal; but from the 
enormous preponderance of numbers the equality would be only 
in name, and such English people, at least, as would be really of 
any value, would refuse to remain in a false and intolerable position. 
Already the English population of Trinidad is dwindling away under 
the uncertainties of their future position. Complete the work, set up 
a constitution with a black minister and a black legislature, and 
they will withdraw of themselves before they are compelled to go. 
Spaniards and French might be tempted by advantages of trade to 
remain in Port-of -Spain, as a few are still to be found in Hayti. 
They, it is possible, might in time recover and reassert their 
supremacy. Englishmen have the world open to them, and will prefer 
land where they can live under less degrading conditions. In Hayti 
the black republic allows no white man to hold land in freehold. 
The blacks elsewhere with the same opportunities will develop the 
same aspirations. 

'Do we, or do we not, intend to retain our West Indian islands 
under the sovereignty of the Queen? If we are willing to let them 
go, the question is settled. But we ought to face the alternative. 
There is but one form of government under which we can retain 
these colonies with honour and security to ourselves and with 
advantage to the negroes whom we have placed there -the mode 
of government which succeeds with us so admirably that it is the 
world's wonder in the East Indies, a success so unique and so 
extraordinary that it seems the last from which we are willing to 
take example.' 

Just what was Froude making a fuss about? At a public meeting in 
Port-of -Spain on October 29, 1892, a Reform Committee was set up. 
The members of the Committee were: L.A.A. de Verteuil, nominated 
unofficial member of the Legislative Council; Mr Lechmere Guppy, 
also a member of the Council and ex-Mayor of San Fernando; Sir 
Henry Alcazar, Mayor of Port-of -Spain; Mr W. C. Clerk, Mayor of 
San Fernando; Mr Francis Damian and Mr H. B. Phillips, Ex-Mayors 
of Port-of -Spain; Mr William Howatson, President of the Trinidad 
Chamber of Commerce; with Mr Prudhomme David as Secretary. 

Mr David, in a memorandum to the Secretary of State for the 


Colonies, stressed the aversion of a large number of people in the 
island to the despotic features of the Crown Colony system of govern- 
ment. At three public meetings held in the principal centres of 
population at the end of 1892 and in January 1893, the following 
resolutions were unanimously agreed to : 

*(1) That the system of Government at present existing in the Colony 
is not only injurious to the best interests of the country and its in- 
habitants, but is a great public grievance and a cause of general 

'(2) That there can be found in the Colony an electorate qualified 
by knowledge and education to form an intelligent judgment on public 
affairs and to ensure the fair representation of all interests by return- 
ing fit and proper persons to the Council of Government.' 

The constitution proposed by the Reform Committee would not be 
considered in any way revolutionary today. The principal proposals 
were these: 

(1) A Legislative Council of 20 members, twelve of whom should 
be elected and eight nominated. The nominated members were the 
Governor, the Attorney General, the Colonial Secretary, the Auditor 
General, the Director of Public Works, and three other officials nomi- 
nated by the Governor. The elected members were to be elected for a 
three-year term. When not less than eight elected members voted 
together on any matter of finance or of purely local concern, the offi- 
cial vote was not to be used. 

(2) The Executive Council was to consist of the Governor, three 
officials, and two persons selected by the Governor from the elected 
members of the Legislative Council. 

(3) The franchise was to be extended to males only, who were 21 
years of age and who (a) owned or rented a dwelling house within a 
Borough or Town of the yearly value of $72 or upwards, or in an 
Electoral District not including a Borough or Town of the yearly value 
of $48 or upwards, or (b) was a bona fide lodger paying rent of not 
less than $72 per annum, or (c) owned or occupied eight acres of 
land or upwards with a dwelling house thereon of the value of $96, 
or less than eight acres of land but more than one acre with a dwelling 
house thereon of the value of $240, or less than one acre with a dwell- 
ing house thereon of the value of $480. 

(4) No person could be elected to the Legislative Council who did 
not possess a clear annual income of $1,920 or was not the owner in 
his own or in his wife's right of real estate of the absolute value of 

The Reform Committee estimated that their recommendations 
would enfranchise from 12,000 to 15,000 of Trinidad's population of 
200,000. At a public meeting in San Fernando, their proposals were 
accordingly rejected as involving a franchise too high to be of any 
value to the general mass of inhabitants; the San Fernando meeting 
favoured the view that every elector should be eligible to a seat in 


the Council. The Reform Committee, however, opposed the recom- 
mendation of the Royal Franchise Commission of 1888 that no one 
should be allowed to vote who 'being under the age of 40 years cannot 
read and write the English language or understand the same when 

At the time of Froude's visit to Trinidad, the doctrine of imperial 
federation was very much in the air. The doctrine in more ways than 
one represented the beginning of a retreat from the British policy of 
free trade and abandonment of colonial preferences, and was in more 
ways than one an anticipation of the later concept of the British 
Commonwealth. One of its principal philosophers was Froude himself, 
and one of its principal architects was Joseph Chamberlain, who as- 
tonished everybody at the end of the 19th century, when he was 
appointed to a Cabinet post, by asking for the position of Secretary of 
State for the Colonies. The philosopher sneered at the idea that Trini- 
dad might have some place in this doctrine of imperial federation. 
Chamberlain, the architect, Secretary of State for the Colonies, not 
merely sneered, he acted. 

In 1896 the Port-of -Spain City Council submitted a request to the 
Government of Trinidad for financial assistance and for revision of 
the financial arrangements between the Council and the Government. 
The Council asked to be relieved of an obligation to make annual 
contributions towards the maintenance of hospitals, towards educa- 
tion, and for the registration of vaccination cases and of births and 
deaths. They asked the Government to contribute to the revenues of 
the Council by paying for the water used in Government Institutions. 
They expressed willingness to include within the boundaries of the 
town the suburbs of Belmont, St Ann's Maraval, and St James, on the 
condition that the Central Government, which was responsible for the 
upkeep of these suburbs, put then* streets and drains in order. And 
they asked for assistance from the Central Government, by way of 
loan or grant, towards the revenues of the Town, emphasising that in 
twenty years their expenditure had exceeded their revenue by some 
$232,000; the Port-of -Spain City Council was so short of money that 
in fact it had to sell the Town Hall to the Government for 5,000, of 
which 4,000 was applied towards repayment of the Council's indebt- 
edness to the Government. The Council asked the Government to 
assume full responsibility for the maintenance of the Ariapita asylum, 
and claimed some compensation from the Government for their water- 
works system which the Government had used as the basis of expan- 
sion to other parts of the country. 

The then Governor of Trinidad, Sir Frederick Napier Broome, 
appointed a Commission on March 2, 1896, to enquire into the repre- 
sentations made by the Port-of -Spain City Council. The Mayor of the 
Town, Mr Newbold, together with Sir Henry Alcazar, a future Mayor, 
were appointed members of the Commission. The Mayor attended 
only^the first meeting, and Alcazar, as a result of an accident, left for 
medical treatment in England. The Commission's report indicated 


a sharp split between the Government members and the Council mem- 
bers, and Alcazar as well as Mr Eugene Lange of the Legislative 
Council, dissented from the majority report. 

Thereupon Sir Henry Alcazar, who had by that time become Mayor, 
submitted a petition to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on 
July 6, 1897, on behalf of the Borough Council of Port-of -Spain. The 
Council protested against the decision of the Government to make 
financial aid dependent on the agreement of the Council to increase 
the house rate from 5 per cent to 1\ per cent, the rate that prevailed 
in San Fernando and in the Wards. The Council argued that taxation 
in Port-of -Spain was greater than that in other parts of the country, 
because the inhabitants of Port-of -Spain had to pay licences for the 
sale of meat and vegetables in the public markets, water rates and 
sewerage rates, as well as a higher licence fee for the sale of liquor. 
The petition argued strongly that the Council was entitled to some 
compensation from the Government for the water works which was 
their property, for the water which the Government had used for the 
benefit of public institutions, as well as for the water rates which had 
been collected by the Government since 1875. The Council empha- 
sised that it could not take in the new suburban districts until they 
had been put in good condition by the Government. It argued as 
follows : 

"These suburbs, which are on the outskirts of the town, were not, 
until a recent date, subject to any building regulations whatsoever, 
with the result that the buildings in these localities present all the 
varieties of irregularity which might have been expected under the 
circumstances. In the chief of them, Belmont, there are no side- 
walks, and no system of drainage save by means of open earth 
trenches along the main streets. Apart from the main road, along 
which an electric tramway runs (the tramlines being at many points 
along the route not more than one or two feet from the entrance 
to the adjoining buildings) the streets are not more than 15 feet in 
width. The supply of water to premises is confined to those rated at 
a sum of not less than 60. At nights, the whole locality is wrapped 
in complete darkness, not a street light having ever been put up in 
any part of this district. 

The other suburbs proposed to be incorporated are in a similar 
or worse plight. In these also buildings of every description have 
been allowed to be erected without the least regard to symmetry 
safety or sanitary requirements; and for this state of things 
the Government are entirely responsible, all these places being in- 
cluded in wards which are under direct and exclusive Government 

The Secretary of State replied to the Governor on February 8, 1898, 
rejecting the petition. He demanded that as the price of any assistance 
from the Government the Council should levy higher rates and refused 
to accept the Governor's recommendation that the Government should 


make to the Municipality a grant of 5,000 a year for ten years out of 
general revenue. He expressed the view instead that 'the Council 
should, if possible, be reorganised and reformed', and the Secretary 
of State for the Colonies, the architect of imperial federation, the 
trustee for the people of Trinidad and Tobago, invited the Governor's 
views on two questions as follows : 

(a) whether a more widely extended franchise would tend to create 
a more efficient council, and a more intelligent management of 

" Municipal matters; 

(b) whether the plan which had been adopted in the case of Bombay 
and Colombo of appointing a high officer of the Government 
to be Mayor or Chairman of the Council could with advantage 
be adopted in the case of Port-of-Spain. 

The Secretary of State also insisted on the submission of the annual 
Municipal budget for the approval of the Governor and an audit of 
the municipal accounts by the Auditor-General. He indicated finally 
that if, after full examination, the Municipality's claims in respect of 
waterworks were to be admitted either in whole or in part, *such admis- 
sion may very probably be coupled with a demand that the Council 
should contribute towards the cost of the police protection of the 
Borough, a charge which is in most towns, at least in part, defrayed 
from Municipal funds.' 

The Governor thereupon appointed another committee of four 
. persons of which Alcazar was again a member. The Committee was 
obviously in a very difficult situation on the basis of Mr Chamberlain's 
despatch to the Governor. But the Committee, while supporting the 
view that the Municipal franchise should be extended and that any 
burgess should be eligible to be a Town Councillor, was absolutely 
opposed to the suggestion of the Secretary of State that a paid official, 
appointed by the Central Government, should replace the Mayor of 
the Council. The Committee wrote: 

'With regard to the second suggestion of the Secretary of State, 
we are unable to advise that in this Colony any good result would 
follow the appointment of a nominated official Mayor. Self govern- 
ment and absolute official control are essentially incompatible: and 
unless the officer to be appointed had the power, hi such cases as 
he thought necessary, to overrule the opinion of the majority of his 
Council, his presence at the Board would prove a mere irritant. And 
if he had this power then the ultimate responsibility for Municipal 
government would be removed from the elected Council and vested 
in the nominated Chairman, and in the last result, in the Governor, 
to whose orders he would be bound to refer. The Council would 
then be an advisory body, free from real executive responsibility, 
but invested with very great powers of hindrance and mischief. 
We also think that such a step would not conduce to the object in 
view in the first suggestion, which we take to be the creation and 
favouring of conditions, under which the public might be hoped to 


take a more intelligent and careful interest in the acts of their 
elected Municipality.' 

The Committee was equally unhappy about Mr Chamberlain's 
proposals regarding the Governor's approval of the Council's budget. 
On this matter it reported as follows : 

'With regard to the condition that the Municipal Budget should 
be submitted year by year for the approval of the Governor, we 
feel some difficulty in reporting. Undoubtedly, it is desirable that 
the soundness and financial accuracy of the Budget should be 
approved, that is to say, that the Budget should be a real one, not 
showing asset items that ought not to be credited to current revenue; 
not confounding capital with recurring expenditure; framed in all 
respects in such a manner that it can be made the basis of a sub- 
sequent efficient audit, and providing adequately for a sufficient 
balancing of estimated expenditure and revenue. That this much 
ought to be insisted on and legally secured, we all agree; but when 
the approval of the Governor is made a condition for sanctioning 
items and estimates for recurrent expenditure, or some expense 
which the Borough authorities think it desirable to incur for the 
benefit of the inhabitants, the effect is to take out of the hands of 
the Borough Council and vest in the Governor the entire respon- 
sibility for the management of the Borough business and finances; 
and although it is impossible to ignore the danger of questionable 
expenditure being occasionally proposed and estimated for in the 
Budget, still it would be a very serious thing to remove the 
responsibility for such an occurrence from the Council, and we 
cannot see our way to recommend that the approval of the Budget 
should imply any responsibility for directing before hand the mode 
of expenditure of the Municipal authority, except that it ought to 
be competent for the Governor to insist that the estimated expen- 
diture should be kept within the estimated revenue, in any event. 

'No doubt, in submitting the Budget, the Council would submit 
itself at any rate to such remarks as to the advisability of any pro- 
posed expenditure which the Government might be advised to 
make; but to impose the will of the Governor on the Council as to 
every matter to be done by the Council during the year would be 
to relieve that body of their responsibility. The Governor ought to 
be empowered to insist that the estimates should be technically 
correct, and should balance and should show a sufficiency to be 
raised from rates for the purpose of expenditure; that expenditure 
should be cut down to the amount that can so be raised, and that 
any supplementary Budget necessary in respect of amounts beyond 
a certain sum not authorised by the general estimate, should be 
similarly submitted and no fresh loan estimated for or raised except 
by previous consent of the Governor and Legislative Council.' 

The Committee thought that it was only proper that the rates in 


Port-of -Spain should be raised from 5 to 71 per cent. But it opposed 
any larger increase, and fully supported the Council's case for assist- 
ance from general revenues. After all, who would know this case 
better than Alcazar, who had attacked the Government's policy on 
supporting immigrants out of general revenues for years and years 
for the benefit of a few planters? Thus the Commission wrote: 

This relief, if granted, could, we submit, be provided by the 
Government out of the large surplus to the credit of the Colony in 
respect of general revenue in recent years, which has to so very 
great an extent been built up out of the surplus taxation of the in- 
habitants of Port-of -Spain itself. The chief town of the Island, to 
a greater extent here than is perhaps quite realised in England, is, 
for the purposes of taxation, the Island itself. The revenue from 
direct taxation in the country districts is much more than directly 
expended in those districts on roads and other matters. Of the 
indirect taxation of the Colony, a very large proportion is paid out 
of the pockets of the inhabitants of Port-of -Spain and the immediate 
suburbs, and these would be the chief sufferers if the Municipality 
were to break down for want of a comparatively small balance of 
available funds to carry on its necessary functions.' 

The Secretary of State for the Colonies was adamant. Immersed 
as he then was in his pet project for a grand Teutonic alliance, com- 
prising Germany, Great Britain, and the United States of America, to 
dominate the world, one would have thought that he would be a little 
tolerant of a small community of 300,000 persons in which the people 
through their prinicpal elected assembly, a Municipality in the capital 
of 60,000 people, were merely asserting their right to have some say 
in their government. Not at all. Once a Crown Colony always a Crown 
Colony. No concessions. As Froude had preached, Chamberlain prac- 
tised. On August 31, 1898, the Secretary of State wrote as follows to 
the Governor, Sir Hubert Jerningham, rejecting again the Council's 
claims and repudiating the reports of the Governor's Committee. This 
is the letter: 

Trinidad -No. 179 

Downing Street, 
31st August 1898. 

*I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your despatches 
No. 112 of the 26th of March, and No. 153 of the 25th of April, on 
the subject of the Borough Council of Port-of -Spain. 

*2. I am equally anxious with yourself to see the Municipal 
Institutions of Port-of -Spain placed on a sound footing, but I regret 
that I am not satisfied, as the Committee whom you appointed to con- 
sider my recent despatch seem to be satisfied, with a verdict as to the 
past, distributing the blame for what must be styled a discreditable 
failure equally between the Borough Council and the Colonial 


'3. The whole theory and foundation of sound Municipal Govern- 
ment is that the ratepayers through their elected Representatives 
should have the full responsibility for, as they have the full manage- 
ment of, their own local affairs, and they cannot throw off this 
responsibility upon any other authority unless they are content at the 
same time to part with their control. 

*4. In the present case the Borough Council has let the expenditure 
outrun the revenue, and has tried to redress the balance, not by taking 
powers to increase rates or by better collection of existing rates but 
by borrowing in order to provide for the annual deficits created under 
this system. It is now suggested that they must be to some extent 
exempted from blame, inasmuch as the Government did not interfere 
as it might have done to prevent their mode of action. I regret that 
I an unable to accept this as a sufficient excuse for a body which is or 
ought to be a leading Municipality in the West Indies, and I cannot 
agree that the Council will be encouraged to do its duty in the future 
by the grant of a Government subsidy, at the expense of all the inhabi- 
tants of the Colony, to provide for deficiencies which are primarily 
due to its neglect to provide by the ordinary means at the disposal of 
a Municipality for its own expenditure. 

*5. I have no desire to press the suggestion that the Chairman of the 
Council should be a Government officer, although such an arrange- 
ment has worked well in the case of other Municipalities whose record 
will compare favourably with that of the Borough Council of Port-of- 
Spain, and would give the Council the advantage of the advice and 
experience of a trained official. 

'6* You inform me that if the Borough Council is to continue as 
an institution the first step is for Government to come to its direct 
assistance. I do not wish to obstruct your plans of re-construction, 
but I regret that I cannot agree in this view of the case. I stated in 
my despatch of the 8th of February last that guarantees of better and 
sounder finance should be required as conditions precedent to the 
grant of any relief. 

*7. I am glad to note that the Committee whose report is enclosed 
in your despatch of the 26th March last "all concur in thinking that 
a statutory obligation to make and enforce a rate of not less than 1 /6 
in the should form a condition for the granting of the relief applied 
for," and that similar views are expressed in the concluding para- 
graph of the letter addressed by the Colonial Secretary to the Mayor 
of Port-of -Spain on the 21st of March last. 

*8. It is now time to bring this question, which has been pending 
for a considerable time, to a definite decision, and I have therefore 
to request that you will inform the Borough Council of Port-of -Spain. 

*(1) That I shall in no case be able to sanction a direct subvention 
to the Borough Funds from Colonial Revenues. I consider that 
such a subvention would be most unfair to the taxpayers of 
the Colony who do not reside in the Borough and who do not 
profit by the local expenditure. 


*{2) That the relief offered in my despatch No. 45 of the 8th of 
February is strictly conditional on the acceptance of proposals 
for securing better administration especially of the Finances 
of the Borough. The proposals may be formulated as follows : 

(a) The extension of the Borough Boundaries in the manner 
and on the conditions specified in the 5th paragraph of 
my despatch No. 45. 

(b) The submission of the Municipal Budget year by year for 
the approval of the Governor. Such control would not 
extend to details but would merely secure that the 
Estimated Expenditure for the year was fairly provided 
for by the Estimated Revenue, and that the Estimates 
were in such a form as to facilitate Audit. 

(c) The auditing of the Accounts of each year by the 
Auditor-General with power to surcharge unauthorised 
or irregular expenditure. 

(d) The removal of the limit of 5 per cent, to the amount 
of the rate; the rate for each year to be such as with 
the other receipts will produce sufficient revenue to meet 
the estimated expenditure of the year. 

(e) The assessment of the Borough to be made by an officer 
appointed by the Colonial Government. 

*9. If, as I trust will be the case, the Borough Council accept the 
terms offered them, you should prepare an Ordinance to give effect 
to the proposed changes with as little delay as may be. In this case, 
if it should be found that a Loan is absolutely necessary to enable 
the Municipality to discharge its pressing liabilities, I shall not object 
to one being raised, provided that a statement of Revenue is supplied 
showing a surplus over the current expenditure sufficient to provide 
Interest and Sinking Fund. 

I have, &c., 


The Port-of-Spain City Council would not be bullied. It rejected 
the conditions laid down by the Secretary of State. It was war between 
the Colonial Office and the Port-of-Spain City Council. But the odds 
were as uneven as the war between Spanish cavalry and Arawak, 
Indians armed with bow and arrow. The Port-of-Spain City Council 
was suspended, and the affairs of the City were entrusted to a Board 
of Town Commissioners. With the total contempt for intellectualism 
which characterised the Crown Colony system of government, the 
Governor of Trinidad and Tobago selected, as the Chairman of the 
Board of the Commissioners, a British merchant who, of all the names 
in the world that he could possibly have had, had the name of Adam 
Smith. The great British economist, who has stood in history for 
laissez-faire and the minimum possible interference of government 
in the life of the country, became the name associated with as arbitrary 
an exercise of the metropolitan power as the suspension of the Jamaica 


Assembly in 1865 or the suspension of the British Guiana Constitution 
in 1953. 

But Trinidad retaliated - as so often, the calypsonian being the 
mouthpiece. Norman Le Blanc, Richard Coeur de Lion of calypso 
fame, immortalized Trinidad's resentment at the execution of the 
Port-of -Spain City Council: 

'Jerningham the Governor, 

It's a fastness into you, 

It's a rudeness into you, 

To break up the laws of the Borough Council.* 

Water had figured prominently in the conflict between the British 
Government and the Port-of -Spain City Council. Water figured even 
more prominently in Trinidad's second great experience of the Crown 
Colony system in 1903. This experience was the water riots which 
took place in Port-of -Spain on March 23, 1903. 

A characteristic of Trinidad life, then as now, was an enormous 
waste of water, which seemed to be greater the more abundant the 
supply. In 1874, with a population of 25,000 persons, the daily delivery 
of water in Port-of -Spain was 1J million gallons, averaging from 65 
to 71 gallons per head, more than twice the allowance of London. It 
was therefore recommended that meters and other devices should 
be used for preventing waste. Seven years later a Committee which 
investigated the water problem reported a daily supply of 2 million 
gallons for a population of 32,000. The Committee stated that the daily 
supply was 'largely in excess of what was required either for luxury 
or use, 9 and that one-third of the supply was wasted either through 
carelessness or neglect. The Committee added: 

*It is true that some provisions of the Water Works Ordinance 
3 of 1880 aim at preventing waste by rendering it punishable to 
let taps flow or otherwise cause waste. But the waste is on such a 
wholesale scale as scarcely to be affected by any legal restrictions. 
In nearly every yard, and at almost every house, passers in the 
street will hear the sound of water running, and, as the gutters 
show, to waste, in addition to which baths of unnecessary and 
previously unknown dimensions have been constructed, fountains 
erected, and gardens irrigated to an extent which could not have 
been contemplated, and certainly was not provided for, when the 
water supply was brought to Port-of -Spain.* 

The Committee however did not recommend meters as a remedy 
for the waste but instead the general constriction of the size of delivery 
pipes by the introduction of ferrules so as to reduce them to | inch 
in diameter. This was accordingly made law in 1883. Instead of reduc- 
ing waste, however, the measure appeared to have stimulated it, 
because the water took so much longer to flow through the pipes that 
taps were left running even more recklesly than before. 


In 1892 therefore another Committee was appointed to consider the 
question. The population of Port-of -Spain had by then increased 
to 50,000, the Beimont suburb having been included in the water 
district. The average daily delivery in that year was 2,800,000 gallons, 
but the supply in the dry season had to be cut off twice daily for a 
few hours so as to allow the Maraval Reservoir to refill. The Commit- 
tee proposed that extravagant waste should be stopped and a storage 
reservoir containing a 30-day supply should be constructed. 

Much of this waste was caused by the well-to-do section of the Port- 
of -Spain population, principally the large houses around the Queen's 
Park Savannah. On example given in 1893 cited a house in which 
no less than 8,170 gallons were consumed daily. Every well-to-do 
person constructed not an ordinary bath or bathrooms fitted with 
roman baths of wood or galvanised iron of 68 or 80 gallons, but large 
plunge baths containing as much as 1,000 or 2,000 gallons each, which 
were filled every day by letting the tap run all night, the tap, in fact, 
never being turned off, with a view to the water always being fresh. 
By the turn of the century there were 1,380 baths in Port-of -Spain 
exceeding 100 gallons in capacity. The 8,000 people who used them 
were estimated to consume no less than 1 million gallons daily, an 
average of 187 gallons per head. 

In 1895 another expert, an engineer, Mr Chadwick, was called in. 
Aware of the political implications of the question, and the danger of 
reducing a supply to which the people had got accustomed, Mr Chad- 
wick recommended that the emphasis should be placed on the develop- 
ment of three main sources of additional water supply -in the Diego 
Martin Valley, at the mouth of the Maraval Valley in St Clair, and 
the acquisition of a part of the Moka estate and the Haleland Park 
estate through which the Maraval River ran. He further recommended 
the construction of a service reservoir containing 4 million gallons 
and the redistribution of existing mains. 

As a result of the implementation of Mr Chadwick's proposals, by 
1903 an additional 1,600,000 gallons of water had been made available 
from Diego Martin, St Clair and Cascade. But Mr Chadwick had 
also strongly recommended the introduction of meters. All Port-of- 
Spain was up in arms at the Ordinance of 1896 authorising meters 
to be put upon large plunge baths and providing for increased rates. 
The Port-of -Spain Municipality took the lead in this agitation, which 
was so great that the Government bowed to it and advised the Secretary 
of State to disallow the Ordinance. The matter was taken up again 
in 1902 and again public meetings were held in protest against this 
attempt to throw too much power into the hands of the Government 
and against the meter system 'as being absolutely unreliable and un- 
suited to the customs and habits of the inhabitants.* As a result of this 
outcry this Bill also was withdrawn. At the same time steps were 
taken to prosecute persons for wasting water and to cut off the supply 
of those who wasted water. This included cutting off a supply of 80,000 
gallons a day in February 1903 to the Town Commissioners who had 


replaced the Port-of-Spain City Council for flushing the gutters, on 
the ground that the dirt and dust could be better removed by dry 

This was the background to the publication on March 5, 1903, of 
yet another Water Ordinance. The second reading was scheduled for 
March 16. In consequence of the disorderly behaviour of spectators 
in the Council Chamber, the Council was adjourned to March 23. 
By then the fat was in the fire, and the Governor added fuel to 
the flames by insisting on admission by ticket into the Council 

The notice that tickets would be required by the public for admis- 
sion to the Council Chamber precipitated the Water Riots, The Red 
House was burnt to the ground, the police were called out, two ships, 
the Pallas and Rocket, landed blue jackets, in addition to the 250 men 
of the Lancashire Fusiliers in the barracks in Port-of-Spain. It was 
war between bottles and stones on the one side and bullets on the 
other. Whilst it was not possible to ascertain the exact number of shots 
fired, returns placed before the Commission of Enquiry showed a 
total of 16 persons were killed on the spot or died of their wounds 
subsequently and 43 others were treated at the Colonial Hospital for 
injuries received. 

The conclusions of the Commission of Enquiry which was appointed 
to investigate the disturbance were as follows : 

*(1) That the riots are to be attibuted to the public opposition to 
the proposed Water Works Ordinance, stimulated by the false- 
hoods and incitement to violence referred to previously and 
that they were precipitated by the opposition (stimulated in 
the same way) to the order restricting admission to the meetings 
of the Legislative Council to those who applied for and obtained 

s (2) That, with the exception noted in the next clause, the firing 
by the Police and by certain civilians was amply justifiable. 

'(3) That there was excessive and unnecessary firing by some in- 
dividual members of the Police Force, when not under the 
control of responsible officers, to which some of the wounding 
and loss of life is attributable. 

*(4) That two, if not three, persons were brutally bayoneted and 
killed by the police without any justification whatever. 

*(5) That the Executive Government failed to take adequate 
measures to correct the misrepresentations about the draft 
Ordinance with a view to allaying the public excitement. 

*(6) That there is, without doubt, a regrettable and serious division 
between a large influential portion of the Community in 
Port-of-Spain and the Executive Government regarding public 

'(7) That there has been most deplorable delay (for which there 
is, in our opinion, no justification) in prosecuting the rioters 


and those whose conduct was in a greater or less degree res- 
ponsible for the rioting. 

'(8) That it was not foreseen by anyone in authority that the public 
excitement against the draft Water Works Ordinance and the 
Ticket Regulations would culminate in serious rioting, and in 
that view the steps taken to maintain order and preserve the 
peace were not insufficient.' 

The Commission laid the blame for the riots on the Government 
of the Colony and on the Crown Colony system. It condemned the 
Government for failing to take the public into its confidence, to ex- 
plain the legislation, and to show adequate respect for the views of 
the unofficial members nominated by the Government. Here are 
extracts from the Commission's report : 

'Undoubtedly the more frequent and the more hostile the criti- 
cisms, the more careful the Government should have been to take 
the public into their confidence, with a view to making them grateful 
instead of suspicious of the great boon about to be conferred upon 
them. Certainly the Legislative Council were entitled to be kept fully 
aware of every change of design, involving, as it did, the expendi- 
ture of money which they would have to vote. Instead of this, the 
attitude of the Government, unintentionally no doubt, bore the 
appearance of resentment at the too often unfounded and inept 
criticism to which the Waterworks project was subjected. 

'In view of the deep-rooted prejudice against meters (in regard 
to which we may at once say that we accept Mr Chadwick's views 
as to the meter system being both feasible and reliable), the fear 
of high rates and higher payments for plunge baths, the very trouble- 
some and unpopular proceedings in the matter of cutting pipes, 
and the general suspicion and dislike of Waterworks schemes, 
coupled with the fact that two abortive Ordinances were withdrawn, 
one in 1895 and the other in 1902, both after an outcry from the 
public, there was every reason why the introduction of a new Water 
Bill should have been engineered with the greatest tact and care, 
the more so if it contained, as it was bound to contain, the same 
unpopular provisions. Under ordinary circumstances a Bill dealing 
with such a question as water would need careful exposition and 
explanation to those likely to be affected. Ample time for the public 
and press to criticise should be allowed, every effort made to prove 
it just and fair, and every disposition shown to meet opponents half 
way. No doubt had the debates on the second reading been 
permitted by the mob , to continue, assurance to this effect would 
have been given. His Excellency the Governor had already told a 
deputation that he had no intention of rushing the Bill through, and 
his speech, which was abruptly closed, showed clearly his intention 
to be eminently fair and conciliatory. But unfortunately the system 
under which legislation is undertaken in Trinidad is unfavourable 
to a friendly discussion by the public of the provisions of a draft 


Ordinance. There is not, as in India and the colonies in the east, 
a preliminary enquiry through the executive officers of the Govern- 
ment as to the merits of a Bill, or consultations with members of 
the public likely to be interested hi a Bill, as to how the proposed 
law will work. After the form of the Bill is decided upon there is 
no publication with it of a Statement of Objects and Reasons for 
all new clauses, nor are references given in the margin to clauses 
of the existing law, which are merely redrafted or repeated. 

'What happened might have been anticipated. The moment the 
Bill appeared violent articles were written against it, and still more 
violent speeches were made at a public meeting held at the race- 
stand on the Savannah, or public park, on the 14th of March. It 
mattered not that the speakers had not even read the Bill. Suffice 
it that it was a Waterworks Bill -and that it contained the hated 
word meter - and the agitators were up in arms at once. We think, 
therefore, that the bringing of the Bill without consulting members 
of the public, informally ft need be, at first - and the bringing in of 
the second reading within ten days after its publication - was very 
injudicious, and certainly calculated to give colour to the view that 
the Government cared naught for public opinion. Even the un- 
official members of the Legislative Council, who had pronounced 
so strongly against the first Bill in October, and whom it was desir- 
able to carry with the Government in a matter of the kind, were 
not consulted. 

*. . . The Water Authority was, pending the creation of a body 
of Commissioners under the Sewerage Act, to consist of the Gov- 
ernor in Executive Council, which, in the opinion of a great number 
of ratepayers, owing to Mr Wrightson's great personal influence, 
practically meant himself, and this was bound to be an unpopular 
provision. No time was feed by which a separate Water Authority 
might be created, and as on the passing of the Bill all control over 
the working of the new law would wholly pass from the Legislative 
Council, there was not a single unofficial representative of the com- 
munity, elected or nominated who would have a voice in its 
administration . . . 

*But there is, of course, the further question of the policy of the 
course taken by the Government in the circumstances of the case, 
and while admitting that the order was only reasonable in itself 
and that the Governor was fully justified in refusing to withdraw it, 
we cannot refrain from expressing our opinion that in the circum- 
stances of the case His Excellency would have been better advised 
to have given instructions in the first instance that so soon as the 
available seats (numbering 180) were occupied no further admission 
to the Council Chamber should be allowed. The agitation on the 
water question would not then have been added to by a further 
complaint, however factitious, of unconstitutional action on the part 
of the Governor, and the arrangements would have prevented any 
complaint on the part of the public of favouritism as to admission 


to the Chamber, which though it was in effect provided against in 
the notification, yet most regrettably was not carried out. The Clerk 
of the Council had eighty tickets to give to applicants, and he gave 
"about half of them" to clerks in the Government offices. It is not 
surprising that a charge of packing the Council Chamber was made 
against the Government. 

'There was further special reason why the Government should 
have been careful. For some years a group of persons has existed 
in Port-of-Spain whose main conception of public spirit and 
independence is to vilify the Government and indulge in person- 
alities regarding the individuals who compose it. Conspicuous among 
this group are certain coloured lawyers, some of whom have studied 
law in England, coloured tradesmen doing a substantial business, 
and some less reputable persons, while a few persons of English 
birth, including the editors of two newspapers, have thrown their lot 
in with them. That some of the individuals are actuated by a natural 
desire to take part in public affairs we have no reason to doubt, but 
others are inspired by a vague aspiration for a representative Gov- 
ernment. They feel agrieved at the abolition of the elective Borough 
Council, which was effected on the 20th December, 1898, under 
the instructions of the Secretary of State, because the Council had 
failed in their duty and refused to submit their accounts to a public 
audit. They have formed themselves into a Ratepayers' Association, 
numbering 185 members, with Mr Newbold, a former Mayor, as 
President, and at present the Committee of that Association affects 
to act on behalf of the whole body of ratepayers in Port-of-Spain, 
6,793 in number. The influence of such a party is usually neutralised 
by the much larger body of quiet self-respecting persons, when 
satisfied that the Government is just and sympathetic. But in Trini- 
dad it appears to us unfortunately true that the Government of the 
colony have not in the past, by continuously endeavouring to keep 
in touch with the more respectable and intelligent members of the 
public, by invariably consulting them as to legislative measures 
beforehand, and by showing every possible consideration for the 
views of the non-official members of the Legislative Council, secured 
for the Government as such, and for their measures, the strong 
unswerving confidence and support of the community of Port-of- 
Spain, which would make a few agitators a negligible quantity. We 
must acknowledge that any Government would have a difficult task 
in a society where it seems a tradition even for its leading and most 
respected members to be usually in opposition to the Government. 
The Government seem in consequence rather to have taken refuge 
in a policy of stolid, if not unsympathetic, isolation, which has ended 
in a kind of cleavage existing between rulers and ruled which we 
think many years will be needed to correct. The Government must 
have been aware of the feelings of the public towards them, and 
should therefore have been doubly careful to move warily in 
grappling with a thorny subject. However excellent and conciliatory 


their intentions in fact were as to the conduct of the Bill after its in- 
troduction, which they never had an opportunity of expressing, they 
plunged into the contest apparently with a light heart, just as if the 
Bill had been one of the smallest pieces of routine legislative business.' 

The Commission's criticism of the Crown Colony system in opera- 
tion touched the Secretary of State for the Colonies in a raw spot, and 
Mr Chamberlain did his best to cover up the deficiencies and to find 
an alibi. He sought to lay part of the blame on the nominated un- 
official members and to say that things could not be so bad after all 
because of the economic stability of Trinidad. This is what he wrote 
in a despatch on July 21, 1903, to the Governor, Sir Alfred Maloney: 

*I have read these words with great regret, and I have equally 
regretted to read the words which follow, to the effect that it seems 
a tradition in Trinidad even for the leading and most respected 
members of the community to be usually in opposition to the Gov- 
ernment. The success of Crown Colony government - and no other 
form of government is suited to the conditions of Trinidad - 
depends upon the mutual co-operation of the official and unoffi- 
cial sections. The fact that the ultimate power as well as the ultimate 
responsibility rest, subject to the Secretary of State, with the 
Governor and heads of the principal Departments of the Executive 
Government, makes it absolutely imperative to defer, wherever 
it is reasonable to do so, to the wishes of the Unofficial Members of 
the Legislative Council, to consult them on matters of legislation 
and expenditure, to treat them with the consideration and confi- 
dence which is due to representative members of the community, 
and to be at pains to prevent as far as possible such questions as 
may arise from being treated as party questions. 

*On the other hand, it is for the Unofficial Members to respond 
by recognizing what I will call the strength of their own position. 
They must be aware that Governors and Secretaries of State alike 
are naturally reluctant to override the convictions or even the 
prejudices of men of high standing and independent position, who 
have been definitely nominated to represent and speak for the com- 
munity at large; and to constitute themselves a standing opposi- 
tion is to assume, what is not the case, that the Government of the 
Colony is adverse to the interests, and indifferent to the wishes, of 
the general public. 

*I must confess, however, that I see reason for thinking that what 
the Commissioners call the cleavage between the rulers and the 
ruled may not have been in fact so complete as might appear at 
the present moment to be the case. I cannot bring myself to believe 
that Trinidad would have been so conspicuously prosperous, had 
not officials and unofficials alike been as a rule working hand in 
hand for the good of the Colony/ 

This was, of course, mere eyewash. It might be very easy for the 


Commission of Enquiry into the Water Riots to state that, except in 
one or two instances, the shooting by the police was justifiable. In 
fact, however, the Crown Colony system rested on the bayonets of the 
police supported by British battleships and British troops. The water 
agitation was started by the disfranchised middle and upper classes, 
though it was the ordinary citizens who got shot down in Sackville 
Street, or at the corner of Frederick and Prince Streets, or in Aber- 
cromby Street, or in Woodford Square. The less fortunate members 
of the community, whether of African origin or Indian origin, equally 
felt the weight of the Police Force which protected the Crown Colony 
system. It is little wonder that the transfer of the Police Force in 
later years to the control of elected representatives of the people of 
Trinidad and Tobago provoked a minor political crisis. 

The population that did not live in St Clair felt the weight of police 
repression particularly in connection with their popular celebrations - 
Carnival and Hosea. 

Between 1881 and 1884 Carnival was in serious danger of being 
stopped altogether by the police. What was involved was principally 
the canboulay - a corruption of cannes brulees-ihe procession of 
lighted torches which dominated the Carnival in those days. On April 
1, 1881 -probably an appropriate day -the Colonial Secretary was 
asked a number of questions in the Legislative Council regarding the 
Carnival disturbances in that year. The rumours prevalent in Port- 
of -Spain were that the police intended to put down Carnival by force, 
they had ordered a number of heavy staves for special use, and that 
bands had come into Port-of-Spain from Diego Martin, St Joseph, 
Arouca, Arima, Chaguanas, and even from San Fernando for the espe- 
cial purpose of creating a disturbance and of beating up the police. 
The rumours went so far as to say that if the police had not been con- 
fined to barracks on Carnival Monday night, the whole of Port-of- 
Spain would have been set on fire by the crowd. This last rumour 
may or may not have been so, but the fact is that the Governor gave 
this reply on March 3, 1881, to a question as to the reasons for the 
confinement of the police to barracks from Carnival Monday after- 
noon until 10 o'clock on the morning of Ash Wednesday. 

The Governor stated that looking to the erroneous reports which 
had gained currency as to his action in this matter he had much plea- 
sure in replying to the question of the Hon. Member: That as the 
Council were no doubt aware a serious disturbance had occurred early 
on Monday morning in which several of the Police had been injured: 
That the Mayor and Town Council had waited on him on Monday and 
had represented to him that the owners of property and respectable 
inhabitants of the Town were in a state of great alarm at the excite- 
ment which existed: That after some discussion His Excellency en- 
quired whether in the opinion of the deputation good would result 
from his going to Town and addressing the people in person and was 
answered that for him to do so would be productive of more good 
than the presence of 1,000 soldiers: That His Excellency being most 


averse to the use of further force and the possibility of bloodshed 
accordingly went down to the Eastern Market and addressed the 
people explaining to them that there seemed to have been some mis- 
conception as to the views of the Government with regard to the 
Carnival, that there was no wish whatever to stop their amusements if 
conducted in an orderly manner but that the use of torches in the 
streets had been forbidden owing to the danger from fire at this dry 
season of the year and could not be permitted and that he hoped that 
no more would be carried about: That if the people would promise 
His Excellency to conduct themselves in an orderly manner and 
would keep the peace themselves he would believe them and would 
withdraw the Police: That on this loud cries of "we promise" were 
raised: That the Police were accordingly withdrawn into Barracks 
until the morning of Wednesday the 2nd instant when instructions 
were issued for their returning to their usual duties.* 

The official view was that the Carnival of 1883 was even more dis- 
orderly than that of 1881. The reports tell of fighting, throwing of 
stones and bottles, much obscenity, and unmasked bands of disorderly 
persons marching through Port-of -Spain armed with long sticks. The 
Governor was of the opinion that it was not for the most part Trini- 
dadians who were involved but bad characters from the neighbouring 
islands. So in preparation for the 1884 Carnival, legislation was rushed 
through to prohibit canboulay as the principal source of disorderliness. 

It was in the same year, 1884, that serious disturbances took place 
in and around San Fernando in connection with the Hosea celebra- 
tions on October 30, 1884. So serious were the disturbances that the 
Governor of Jamaica, Sir Henry Norman, was appointed on special 
duty to investigate them. 

The disturbances originated in various regulations which had been 
introduced seeking to confine the Hosea celebrations to the estates, to 
keep them off the highroads, and to prevent them from entering San 
Fernando and Port-of -Spain. Over the years the Hosea celebrations 
had ceased for the most part to have a religious character, to the extent 
where it was boycotted by the most respectable Muslims, either be- 
cause they considered it unsanctioned by their faith, or because of 
the boisterous nature of the procession; as Sir Henry Norman wrote 
in his report: 

'. . . in fact the ceremony, although it is purely appertaining to 
the Mahomedans, is one in which most of the persons engaged are 
Hindoos, and the whole celebration has come to be regarded as a 
sort of national Indian demonstration of a rather turbulent 
character, and common to both Hindoos and Mahomedans/ 

The Indian population simply refused to accept the regulations. 
They marched in large numbers determined to enter San Fernando. 
The police prevented them from doing so and opened fire. In all some 
twelve Indians were killed and over one hundred wounded and treated 
in hospital. Sir Henry Norman had this to say in his report: 


*A few of the wounds were severe, and one man under treatment 
is not expected to survive, but a large number of the wounds were 
very slight. All were the result of buckshot, which was issued to the 
police in lieu of bullets some time back by order of Sir Sanford 
Freeling. The list of casualties is very heavy, and is probably far 
more numerous than would have been the case if rifle bullets had 
been used, although, in the latter case, at close quarters, if the police 
had fired low, their forty-five shots would probably have killed more 
men and mortally wounded more men than the fire of buckshot. 
The question of whether rifle bullets or buckshot should be used 
when it is unfortunately necessary to fire upon rioters is not one 
upon which any opinion I can give will be of value, and must 
be decided upon general considerations as to humanity and 

The Water Riots Commission had emphasised the total lack of 
relationship between governors and governed and the total contempt 
on the part of the Government for local public opinion. The canboulay 
disturbances involved, at least in the minds of the people of Port-of- 
Spain, a total lack of understanding on the part of the Inspector of 
Police, Captain Baker, who was even alleged in the 1881 disturbances 
to have drawn his sword and severely wounded one or more persons. 
The 1884 Hosea disturbances showed the same lack of understanding 
of and sympathy with the population by the Colonial Government. 
The Government had simply passed regulations and proceeded to en- 
force them. Sir Henry Norman was at great pains to argue that the 
Indian population could not have been unaware of the regulations 
and must have understood them, and therefore those who proceeded 
with the procession were determined to disobey them. This may or 
may not have been so, but Sir Henry Norman's report emphasises 
again the failure to establish any harmony rapprochement between 
governors and governed. 

Disregarding the contemptuous references to the Indian immigrants 
and the opprobrious epithets used to designate them which was con- 
ventional at that time, this was Sir Henry Norman's condemnation 
of the whole system of Crown Colony government in its relation with 
the human beings for whom it was supposed to be the trustee: 

'It was not, as I think, want of information that led to this deplor- 
able collision, but want of influence over the Coolies, and there 
was no authority in the Island who possessed this influence. If there 
had been, as protector, an officer whom the Coolies were often 
accustomed to see, who could speak to them thoroughly in their own 
language, and who they knew was well acquainted with their 
customs, I think there might have been a great effect produced by 
the visit of such an officer to as many of the estates as possible prior 
to the festival of the Mohurrum. I think any experienced well- 
selected officer of Indian experience would have visited the estates, 
and have addressed the Coolies with good results; but then such 


an officer would, probably by personal intercourse and by intimate 
knowledge of the Coolies, have acquired an amount of influence 
over them which could not be expected from a gentleman who, 
however zealous he may be, and though, like the present Protector, 
he may be most anxious to do his duty, has not had the advantage 
of an Indian training in a position of authority with natives, 
and who cannot speak fluently to the immigrants in their own 

And yet Joseph Chamberlain was able to say in 1903 that no other 
form of government but the Crown Colony system was suited to the 
conditions of Trinidad, and Froude, in similar vein, was able to sneer 
at the agitators for constitution reform in 1887. Disturbances in 1881, 
disturbances in 1884, disturbances in 1903, riots and police shootings 
on three occasions in 20 years, involving whites, Negroes, and Indians, 
and yet England's leading Professor of History could sneer at consti- 
tution reform, the Secretary of State for the Colonies could suspend 
the principal elective assembly in Trinidad, and, after twenty years of 
shooting, could say that only the Crown colony system, which had 
produced the shootings, was suited to the conditions of Trinidad. 

A Trinidadian, Mr J. J, Thomas, replied to Froude in a well-known 
Trinidad classic entitled 'Froudacity: West Indian Fables by James 
Anthony Froude! Mr Thomas enlarged on the scandal of the Public 
Works Department and the rubbish that had been sent out by the 
Colonial Office in the form of Governors in reply to Froude's argu- 
ment that Trinidad's affairs had not been ill-managed and possibly in 
anticipation of Mr Chamberlain's argument that things could not be 
so bad in Trinidad after all because the economy had been devel- 
oping. Thomas sneered at the whole long succession of Governors 
after Sir Anthony Gordon - a good Governor in his view - with whom 
the colony had been afflicted until the arrival of Sir William Robinson 
- whom he considered another good Governor - who was in Trinidad 
when Froude arrived. He sneered at Sir James Longden with his 
slavish adherence to red tape and his total lack of initiative. He 
sneered at Sir Henry Irving with all his vulgar colonial prejudices, 
his abject surrender to the sugar interests and his conviction that sugar 
growers alone should be possessors of the lands of the West Indies, 
under whose regime the scandalous mismanagement of the Public 
Works Department had become a warning to the whole of the West 

Irving was particularly distinguished by his ostentatious hostility 
to Creoles in general and to coloured Creoles in particular, and it was 
Irving who insisted that the Arima Railway was not to have its ter- 
minus in the centre of Arima but was to be diverted *by only a few 
yards' from the originally projected terminus, which would save the 
colony 8,000. Instead Arima found that the terminus was nearly a 
mile outside of the town, and the population of Trinidad found that 
they had to pay an extra 20,000 for the Governor's few yards. Thomas 


sneered at living's San Fernando Waterworks, which saddled San 
Fernando with a debt of 17,000 for water, which half the inhabitants 
could not get, and which few of the half who did get dared venture 
to drink. 

Thomas was particularly savage on Sir Sanford Freeling, the Gover- 
nor of the colony who in 1884 sanctioned the shooting down of Indian 
immigrants at the Hosea festival. He sneered at Sir Anthony Have- 
lock, a dandy, whom the historian might well by-pass. 

With this catalogue of the woes of Trinidad under Downing Street 
rule, Mr Thomas turned on Professor Froude. This is Thomas' defence 
of the political reformers in Trinidad: 

This brings us to the motives, the sordid motives, which Mr 
Froude, oblivious of the responsibility of his high literary status, 
has permitted himself gratuitously, and we may add scandalously, 
to impute to the heads of the Reform movement in Trinidad. It 
was perfectly competent that our author should decline, as he did 
decline, to have anything to do, even as a spectator, at a meeting 
with the object of which he had no sympathy. But our opinion is 
equally decided that Mr Froude has transgressed the bounds of 
decent political antagonism, nay, even of common sense, when he 
presumes to state that it was not for any other object than the large 
salaries of the Crown appointments, which they covet for them- 
selves, that the Reform leaders are contending. This is not criticism: 
it is slander. To make culpatory statements against others, with- 
out ability to prove them, is, to say the least, hazardous; but to 
make accusations to formulate which the accuser is forced, not only 
to ignore facts, but actually to deny them, is, to our mind, nothing 
short of rank defamation. 

*Mr Froude is not likely to impress the world (of the West Indies, 
at any rate) with the transparent silly, if not intentionally malicious, 
ravings which he has indulged in on the subject of Trinidad and 
its politics. Here are some of the things which this "champion of 
Anglo-West Indians" attempts to force down the throats of his 
readers. He would have us believe that Mr Francis Damian, the 
Mayor of Port-of -Spain, and one of the wealthiest of the native 
inhabitants of Trinidad, a man who has retired from an honourable 
and lucrative legal practice, and devotes his time, his talents, and 
his money to the service of his native country; that Mr Robert 
Guppy, the venerable and venerated Mayor of San Fernando, with 
his weight of years and his sufficing competence, and with his long 
record of self-denying services to the public; that Mr George Good- 
wille, one of the most successful merchants in the Colonies; that 
Mr Conrad F. Stollmeyer, a gentleman retired, in the evening of 
his days, on his well-earned ample means, are open to the above 
sordid accusation. In short that these and such-like individuals who, 
on account of their private resources and mental capabilities, as 
well as the public influence resulting therefrom, are by the sheer 


logic of circumstances, forced to be at the head of public move- 
ments, are actuated by a craving for the few hundred pounds a 
year for which there is such a scramble at Downing Street among 
the future official grandees of the West Indies! But granting that 
this allegation of Mr Froude's was not as baseless as we have shown 
it to be, and that the leaders of the Reform agitation were impelled 
by the desire which our author seeks to discredit them with, what 
then? Have they who have borne the heat and burden of the day in 
making the Colonies what they are no right to the enjoyment of 
the fruits of their labours? The local knowledge, the confidence 
and respect of the population, which such men enjoy, and wield 
for good or evil in the community, are these matters of small 
account in the efficient government of the Colony? Our author, 
in specifying the immunities of his ideal Governor, who is also ours, 
recommends, amongst other things, that His Excellency should be 
allowed to choose his own advisers. By this Mr Froude certainly 
does not mean that the advisers so chosen must be all pure-blooded 
Englishmen who have rushed from the destitution of home to batten 
on the cheaply obtained flesh-pots of the Colonies, 

'At any rate, whatever political fate Mr Froude may desire for 
the Colonies in general, and for Trinidad in particular, it is never- 
theless unquestionable that he and the scheme that he may have 
for our future governance, in this year of grace 1888 have both 
come into view entirely out of season. The spirit of the times has 
rendered impossible any further toleration of the arrogance which 
is based on historical self-glorification. The gentleman of Trinidad, 
who are struggling for political enfranchisement, are not likely to 
heed, except as a matter for indignant contempt, the obtrusion by 
our author of his opinion that "they had best let well alone." . . . 

*A11 of a piece, as regards veracity and prudence, is the further 
allegation of Mr Froude's, to the effect that there was never any 
agitation for Reform in Trinidad before that which he passes under 
review. It is, however, a melancholy fact, which we are ashamed 
to state, that Mr Froude has written characteristically here also, 
either through crass ignorance or through deliberate malice. Any 
respectable, well-informed inhabitant of Trinidad, who happened 
not to be an official "bird of passage", might, on our author's honest 
inquiry, have informed him that Trinidad is the land of chronic 
agitation for Reform. Mr Froude might also have been informed 
that, even forty-five years ago, that is in 1843, an elective constitu- 
tion, with all the electoral districts duly marked out, was formulated 
and transmitted by the leading inhabitants of Trinidad to the then 
Secretary of State for the Colonies. He might also have learnt that 
on every occasion that any of the shady Governors, whom he has 
so well depicted, manifested any excess of his undesirable qualities, 
there has been a movement among the educated people in behalf 
of changing their country's political condition. 
4 We close this part of our review by reiterating our conviction 


that, come what will, the Crown Colony system, as at present 
managed, is doomed.' 

But the Crown Colony system took no heed of Thomas' warning 
or of the continued agitation for political reform. This, in its simplest 
form, meant nothing more than the conviction of ordinary people in 
Trinidad that the only way to have their affairs properly administered 
was to select their own elected representatives. It was not only people 
like Guppy, or Stollmeyer, or Rev. Morton, or Rev. Grant, or Dr de 
Verteuil, or Mr Rostant, or Mr Rapsey, who argued for constitution 
reform and who attacked colonialism. It was the ordinary man in 
the street, like Alexander Wood of Fifth Company, 63 years of age, 
owning 16 acres or growing cocoa, or Mr Juppy, an ex-indentured 
Indian immigrant, who had been in Trinidad for 34 years, who sup- 
ported constitution reform. In Mr Wood's view, constitution reform 
meant better roads. This was his evidence before the 1889 Franchise 
Commission : 

'Well, I really wants a road first of all, to convey my produce 
to market, and that we may able to pay our taxes. Secondly, my 
children goes to school. The road is so very bad sometimes the 
teachers have to send them back; and thirdly, to see that the immi- 
grants has been lately come and wherever they forms they flock 
they have good roads, and we are the natives here we suffering; 
and by this reason I really think that if we have a Council of our 
own, to help us very much, because I have been travelling to other 
islands and I have been seein' the Black have a Council as well as 
the White, but here, in this part of the Vineyard, we partly stifle 
down, suffering. If one of the Europeans stand up and said "That 
man is to go to prison", without any crime, no one would bid against 
him; right away to prison. So I looks into all these reasons, which 
causes me to agree with the Petition.' 

Bad grammar but good politics. Mr Juppy was just as simple, just 
as eloquent, and just as explicit. Here is Mr Juppy *s evidence before 
the Commission: 

'Well, then, you have not talk to people much about this Reform 
Petition at all, about changing the Government; at present it is 
the Queen; you know who the Queen is, Mr Juppy? - Yes, I know 
the Queen, because Queen brought me down here . . . 

The Queen brought you down, and the Queen makes the laws; 
that is to say she names some gentlemen to make the laws out here 
then they go to her and she confirms them. Now some gentlemen 
in the Colony say, "Oh don't let the men who the Queen names 
make the laws; let every one in the Colony who knows about it, 
let them choose some gentlemen to make the laws; let all the Indians 
choose their man and send him up to make laws;" do you think 
that would be a good thing? - No, sir, this country belong to here 
gentlemen, they live here, make children here, and what gentlemen 


here, four, five, or ten, twelve agree to make law, me agree for um 
same law too. 

'But, Mr Juppy, do you wish yourself, and do you think your 
countrymen wish to be choosing a gentleman to go and make laws? 
-Me-self can't choose-um me-self. Some like-um this man; some 
no like-um this man. All man no got-um same opinion. Some 
'gainst one another. 

'Mr Wilson: Now the Queen appoint-um. You like better that 
all the people shall round choose-um, instead of Queen make-urn? 

'Witness : If me tell-um me choose-um? 

'Mr Wilson: You think that better? 

'Witness : No; more better for here people 'point-um. 

The Chairman: I must ask for a little silence. 

*A Voice (Mr Maisonneuve) : We are public here. 

'The Chairman: I must ask for silence, or the room must be 
cleared. Better the People 'point-urn than the Queen? 

'Witness: Yes; because they people the gentlemen live here and 
appoint higher people, and higher people make-urn law. Because 
meself can't go see Queen. Me know all-you sabbet point it out. 

*Dr de Verteuil : He means he cannot see the Queen but he can 
see the people here. 

'Mr Garcia : He means he cannot advise the Queen who to nomi- 
nate because he cannot get to her, but if he is asked to nominate 
he knows who to nominate. 

*The Chairman: Is that what most of your countrymen think 

'Witness: I don't know, sir, because me know for me-self, but 
me no know, for any countryman but me-self.' 

Mr Juppy would not have passed an English examination in Stan- 
dard I, but his political acumen was absolutely impeccable. He wanted 
to appoint the members of the Legislative Council himself and he did 
not want the Queen to do so. He could see them but he could not see 
the Queen. Mr Wood agreed; with his own representatives he would 
have a better chance of getting better roads. What Mr Wood and Mr 
Juppy were attacking, together with their white colleagues among the 
cocoa planters and the mercantile community, was the Crown Colony 
system under which an official of the Government was ex-officfo a 
member of the Legislative Council. As such he had no freedom to 
vote as he pleased. As the Secretary of State, the Duke of Bucking- 
ham, stated in a circular despatch on August 17, 1868, *the power of 
the Crown in the Legislature, if pressed to its extreme limit, would 
avail to overcome every resistance that could be made to it.' 

Thus it was that when in 1862 the Governor of Trinidad complained 
that the Chief Justice had openly disagreed with him hi the Legislature 
in the course of a debate on sewerage works in Port-of -Spain and had 
twice voted against him, the Duke of Buckingham stated the official 
obligation with the utmost clarity: 


*. . . an Officer, whose seat in the legislature is by law insepar- 
able from his office, could not be continued in the office and the 
seat if his conscience should not permit him to give the Crown such 
a measure of support as may be necessary to enable the Governor 
to carry on the business of Government in the Legislature on the 
principles and according to the intentions with which the Legislature 
was constituted.' 

Only minor changes were made in the 19th century to the Crown 
Colony legislature established in Trinidad in 1831. In 1862, two un- 
official members were added on the understanding that, should the 
unofficials outvote the officials by voting together habitually and as a 
party, two official votes would be added. In 1886 the unofficial mem- 
bers complained about their lack of control over expenditure; a 
Finance Committee was therefore established to enable them to par- 
ticipate in the framing of the estimates, to examine each item of the 
estimates before they were submitted to the Legislature, and to make 
recommendations thereon to the Governor. This, however, did not 
prevent the Governor from recommending to the Secretary of State 
the cancellation of a vote unanimously agreed upon by the unofficial 

In 1880, as a substitute for the elected members representing fixed 
constituencies as recommended by many people before the Royal 
Franchise Commission, the unofficial members were assigned by the 
Governor to represent the counties into which the island was divided. 
The Secretary of State for the Colonies, however, disallowed this 
arrangement in 1898, and gave orders that in future the selection of 
unofficial members should depend entirely on their fitness for that 
position. The single exception to this rule was to be Tobago. The 
Secretary of State directed that Tobago should always be represented 
by an unofficial member in the legislature. But the communications 
with Trinidad were so poor that for the next quarter of a century no 
resident in Tobago was able to spare the time to attend meetings of 
the Legislature in Port-of -Spain. 

In 1898 the membership of the Legislative Council was 21, of whom 
11 were unofficial members and 10 official members including the 
Governor, In that year the number of official members was increased 
to 11 and the Governor was given both an original and a casting vote 
to ensure that there should always be an official majority. 

It is in this context that we must see the action of the Legislative 
Council of Trinidad and Tobago in 1917 in passing an Ordinance to 
authorise the raising of money as a contribution to His Majesty to- 
wards the expenses of World War I. The sum involved was 100,000. 
In a speech remarkable for its understatement on March 9, 1917, one 
of the nominated unofficial members, Dr Laurence, considered it 
'remarkable that this small island should have to contribute towards 
the expenses of the war undertaken by the most powerful financial 
Empire that the world has known.' There was nothing remarkable 


about it in a Crown Colony. On August 28, 1918, the Secretary of 
State for the Colonies wrote to the Governor expressing the sincere 
thanks of His Majesty's Government for so generous a contribution 
and for such a generous and patriotic gift. 

It was no wonder that the Royal Commission of 1897 could have 
taken the view that Trinidad had no need for financial assistance from 
Britain in the economic difficulties occasioned by the development of 
the sugar industry in the West Indies. It was no wonder that Joseph 
Chamberlain could have stated in 1903 that only the Crown Colony 
system of government was suited to Trinidad. It was no wonder that 
Froude in 1887 could have sneered at the agitation for constitution 
reform as nothing more than a desire on the part of certain Trini- 
dadians to share in the spoils of office. 

Under the Crown Colony system of government Britain's control 
was supreme. The colonials were expected to obey the fiats from 
London, to thank London for those fiats, to finance London's policy 
out of its own pockets, to produce commodities which London would 
not buy, and finally to contribute to the defence of London. One can 
now see in better perspective the anger of the King of Spain some 
centuries before when he protested to his advisers that they were criti- 
cising him as if he was stealing their or somebody else's property. 


The Education of the 
Young Colonials 

Four centuries of colonialism, from 1498 to 1897, had made of Trini- 
dad and Tobago a great workshop rather than a miniature state. A 
race had been freed, but a society had not yet been formed. The 
people were denied all representative institutions and were considered 
unfit even to operate a Municipal Council in their capital. The Crown 
Colony system was considered the only suitable form of Government, 
in 1903 as in 1810, when the decision was taken on the two grounds 
that the majority of the free.persons were non-white. In such a colony, 
both in order to form a society and develop a spirit of community 
and in order to train the people for self-government, education would 
have an important role to play. The importance of education was 
enhanced by Chacon's emphasis on racial disunity and national divi- 
sions in 1796, both of which were necessarily intensified by the intro- 
duction after emancipation of thousands of workers from all parts 
of the world, the large majority from India. 

The question of education was taken up by the Governor, Sir Henry 
MacLeod, in a despatch to the Secretary of State for the Colonies on 
October 13, 184L The Governor wrote: 

'. . . There is perhaps no British Colony, where, from the mixed 
nature of its inhabitants, which I have before stated, the necessity of 
some general plan of Education is more required than in Trinidad. 

The number of Immigrants we are receiving renders the demand 
of an extension of the means of Education of greater consequence 
every day, and while there appears a willingness and readiness on all 
sides to aid in this desirable object, yet the differences of languages 
and religion make it more imperative that the system to be adopted 
should be one under the control of the Government, not only with a 
view to make it accessible to all parties and creeds, but to cause the 
language spoken to be that of the Country to which this Colony 

'Your Lordship will not fail to think this most essential when I 
tell you that two thirds of the natives still speak exclusively either 
Spanish or French, and I conceive it absolutely necessary that people 
living under British rule and claiming the benefit of British subjects 
should be able to read the laws by which they are governed.* 

The Secretary of State, Lord Stanley, replied at length on January 
8, 1842. His reply raised issues fundamental to education in Trinidad 
over the past century and a quarter, and is therefore reproduced in 


its entirety: 

*. . . The question of Education, embarrassing enough in any of 
the Colonies, is surrounded in Trinidad by peculiar difficulties, aris- 
ing out of the differences of language and of Religion; the majority 
of the population being foreign in language and Roman Catholic in 
religion, the bulk of property being English and Protestant. As to the 
former point of difference, I think it quite clear that it should be a 
leading object with the Government to encourage by every means in 
their power the diffusion of the English language; and it would not 
appear unreasonable to require that instruction in the language should 
be made a sine qua nan in every school applying for aid from public 
funds. Difference of Religion presents a more formidable obstacle; 
and some regulations appear obviously desirable to prevent the estab- 
lishment of three or four schools, set up for the mere purpose of 
rivalry, by different denominations, all claiming and all receiving the 
aid of Government, in a district the population of which would be 
abundantly supplied by a single school. On the other hand I much 
doubt the possibility of laying down and adhering to a rule, in such 
a society, of withholding aid from all schools which shall not be con- 
ducted according to a single scheme laid down by the Government. 
The system introduced into Ireland was founded upon the necessity 
arising out of circumstances in some degree analogous to those which 
you describe; and was intended to communicate to Children of all 
denominations a religious education without shocking the prejudice 
of those who dissented from the Church of England, or introducing 
doctrines at variance with the opinions of that Church. But, although 
Schools upon this principle have rapidly multiplied in Ireland, the 
system has met with a very decided opposition from various quarters, 
and especially from the Clergy of the Church of England: and I fear 
it must be admitted that in few instances has it effected that com- 
bined Education which was one of its main objects, but the different 
Schools, taking their colour from their respective local Superintendents 
have become for the most part exclusively Roman Catholic, or 
Presbyterian, or Church of England, the latter being comparatively a 
very small number. Now this is not the effect which I am desirous of 
producing in Trinidad; and although I am of opinion that if a Board 
could be constituted in which the various religious denominations 
were fairly represented and if the system were taken up in a spirit 
of cordiality and mutual good understanding by their respective 
Clergy, such a system might be productive of great good in Trinidad, 
I am afraid that it would hardly be justifiable to calculate upon such 
a contingency. The refusal of the Clergy generally of any one denomi- 
nation, especially of the Established Church, to co-operate in such a 
system would be a serious obstacle to its introduction; and still more 
so to the exclusion from the benefit of public aid, of all schools not 
conducted under it. In conformity however with your wish expressed 
in your Despatch to my Predecessor of the 1st May 1840, 1 have given 
directions for supplying you with the principal rules and regulations 


under which the Irish system is at present carried on, and a copy of 
the Scriptural books which have been prepared for general use in 
their schools, under the united sanction of the Government Board: 
You will endeavour to ascertain by private and personal enquiry how 
far the Clergy of the various denominations might be expected to 
co-operate in such a scheme; and I shall await with much anxiety your 
report upon this interesting question. Should the result be such as 
I am afraid must be anticipated, it will be necessary to take steps for 
restricting within reasonable limits the liability of the Government to 
be called upon to aid in the establishment of schools of an exclusive 
character; and perhaps no better course could be pursued than that 
which has been adopted in this Country of taking an annual grant to 
a limited amount in aid of Education, and receiving, through certain 
authorised channels, applications for participation in the grant, 
delegating to a Committee of the Privy Council the examination 
separately of the merits of each particular application, and laying 
down at the same time certain indispensable conditions with reference 
to the amount of local contribution, the number of scholars antici- 
pated, the right of Government inspection, and other points to which 
it is unnecessary now to avert. In the absence of any general system 
under the superintendence of the Government, I see no other mode 
likely to be productive of equal advantages with that which I have 
thus generally indicated, respecting which, if necessary, I shall have 
pleasure in furnishing you more particular details.' 

Lord Harris, who assumed the Government of Trinidad in 1846, 
found an irregular system of some forty religious schools in operation, 
aided but not supervised by the Government, attended by some 1,000 
children* He announced to the Legislature on February 1, 1847, how- 
ever, that he would shortly propose an ordinance to empower the 
Government to establish a system of general instruction and *to carry 
out nothing more than what is generally termed secular instruction'. 
This departure from the admonitions issued by Lord Stanley was 
presented to the Legislative Council on April 2, 1851, and was thus 
introduced by the Governor: 

*I decided on this plan with considerable anxiety and in no spirit 
of pride but rather that of deep humiliation; for I am obliged to come 
to the conclusion that the unfortunate differences which exist in 
religion would prevent any united action if that subject were intro- 
duced; and though I acknowledge to the fullest the immense impor- 
tance of this subject in developing the powers of man, I thought it 
better, under the circumstances, that it should be left to be provided 
for by other means,* 

The fundamental principles of Lord Harris' system were as follows: 

(a) That no religious instruction whatever was to be imparted in 
the schools. 

(b) That under no circumstances were the schoolmasters to give 
the religious instruction. 

(c) That the religious instruction of the children was to be com- 


mitted to their respective pastors who upon a day set apart for 
the purpose in each week - the schools being closed on that day 
- were to impart such instruction in the churches or elsewhere, 

(d) That the instruction in the schools was to be of such a character 
as not to offend the religious susceptibilities of any of the 
inhabitants of the colony. 

(e) That no school fees were to be charged. 

(f) That the school expenses were to be met by local rates. 

(g) That the entire management and control of the schools, the 
appointment and dismissal of teachers, the determination of 
the course of instruction and of the books to be employed, were 
to be vested in a Board of Education. 

A Committee of the Council adopted the same year the following 
resolutions for the establishment of schools in Trinidad: 

First: A Board of Education was to be formed, consisting of the 
Governor, with such members of the Legislative Council and other 
persons, being laymen, as may be appointed from time to time by 
the Governor. 

Second : An Inspector of Schools was to be appointed with a salary. 

Third: A training school, with a master and mistress, was to be 
established for the educational training of teachers; the expense of 
maintaining such school, with suitable accommodation for the 
teachers, was to be defrayed from the public funds of the colony. 

Fourth : Public schools were to be established at once in each ward 
of the colony, and at such places most suitable for the convenience 
of the population. 

Fifth : The training and primary schools were to be under the con- 
trol of the Board of Education, and subject to the supervision of the 

Sixth : The expenses of erecting and maintaining the school-houses, 
with suitable accommodation for teachers, and the salaries, were to 
be defrayed from the funds of the wards. 

Seventh: No person was to be appointed master or mistress unless 
such person had produced a certificate of good character to the satis- 
faction of the Board of Education, and until such person had under- 
gone an examination by the Board, and had received a certificate of 

Eighth : At the primary schools instruction was to be provided for 
day scholars, and for evening and adult classes. 

Ninth : Admission to the primary schools was to be free. 

Tenth: Instruction to be given at the training and primary schools 
was to be secular, and without direct religious or doctrinal teaching. 

The 1851 population of 69,609 included 10,812 persons born in 
other British colonies; 8,097 bora in Africa; 4,915 born in foreign 
colonies; 4,169 born in India; 729 citizens of the United Kingdom. 
Roman Catholics predominated - 43,605; followed by adherents of 
the Church of England -16,246. Other denominations included- 


Wesleyans, 2,508; Presbyterians, 1,071; Baptists, 448; Hindus, 2,649; 
Moslems, 1,016. French was the dominant language, and services in 
the Roman Catholic cathedral in Port-of -Spain and in other Catholic 
Churches were normally preached in either French or Spanish. The 
Catholic children normally learned their catechism in French or 
Spanish. There were in the colony 19 French interpreters, 9 Spanish, 
one German and one Hindustani. 

The next few years saw the establishment, under this system, of 
30 ward schools, a model school for boys and one for girls as well as 
a normal school for training of teachers in Port-of -Spain. Of the 30 
ward schools, thirteen were the property of the wards - in Laventille, 
Arima, La Brea, Cedros, Icacos, Mayaro, St Joseph, Couva, Naparima, 
lere Village, Indian Walk, Guapo and Arouca. The others together 
with the model schools in Port-of-Spain were operated in rented 
buildings in Maraval, Santa Cruz, Maracas, Tacarigua, Victoria 
Village, Carenage, Diego Martin, San Juan, Caura, Chaguanas, 
Savonetta, Pointe-a-Pierre, St Madeleine, Canaan Village, Oropouche 
and Erin. 

On February 10, 1869, the Governor, Sir Arthur Gordon, appointed 
Patrick Keenan to make a diligent and full inquiry into the state of 
public education, whether secular or religious, in Trinidad. Mr 
Keenan's report is a devastating criticism of the state of education 
under the Crown Colony system. 

Eighteen years after the establishment of the Board of Education, 
only thirteen school buildings, as has been indicated, were publicly 
owned. Mr Keenan described 17 of the ward schools as buildings 
*which would bring discredit upon any country that recognises 
civilisation as a principle of Government.* Generally speaking, the 
design of the school buildings had no reference whatever to school 
purposes. Sanitary facilities were primitive where they were provided 
at all; some schools were entirely destitute of them. The school furni- 
ture was of the rudest kind. Keenan found a total lack of *everything 
that gives character and tone to a well-worked school in Great Britain 
or Ireland.* Attendance was poor; not more than one pupil in four 
attended school for 100 days a year. 

On the general suitability of the school books in use in Trinidad 
Keenan commented as follows: 

*The books which I found in use were chiefly the publications of 
the Irish National Board. For elegance of style; for correctness of 
information; for acquaintance with the best prose and poetical com- 
positions of the English language; for a general course of useful and 
interesting knowledge; for the high, manly, and moral tone of the 
selections; and for the didactic skifl exhibited in the arrangement of 
the lessons, no set of primary school books ever previously published 
in the English language could surpass, or even equal them. But not- 
withstanding their recognised excellence and reputation, I should 
desire to see them superseded by a set of books whose lessons would 
be racy of the colony -descriptive of its history, of its resources, of 


its trade, of its natural phenomena, of its trees, plants, flowers, fruits, 

birds, fishes, &c. The pitch lake and the mud volcanoes, for instance, 

would supply materials for an attractive series of lessons. So would 

the growth, manufacture, value, and uses of sugar. And so, again, 

would the cacao, the bois immortelle, the cocoa-nut, the coffee plant, 

the cotton plant, the cannon-ball tree, the mora, the pine-apple, the 

mango, the star-apple, the sapodilla, the orange, the shaddock, the 

cashew, the guava, the plantain, the different varieties of palms, &c. 

-objects all familiar to the Creole. Interspersed amongst a number 

of such chapters there might be selections from the prose and poetical 

extracts in the Irish National school books -local matter forming, 

say, one-half, and general literature the other half, of each volume 

of the new series. The books would then possess the same general 

characteristics as the revised edition of the Irish series. As the Irish 

element preponderates in the Irish books, so the Trinidad element 

ought to preponderate in the Trinidad books, which would then be 

as popular with the Trinidadians as the Irish books are with the people 

of Ireland. Lord Harris evidently contemplated such a series of books, 

for in his original instructions to the Board of Education he said- 

"Stiil it is my opinion that, on some subjects, books might be written 

especially adapted to the children of this island." No attempt, I regret 

to say, has hitherto been made to carry out Lord Harris' views. So 

far as I have been able to ascertain, the only publication of a local 

character that has emanated from the Board, or from any of its staff, 

is a little volume descriptive of the geography of the island, by Mr 

Fortune, master of the Eastern Market Borough school.' 

Mr Keenan recommended the abandonment of state control over 
education and the introduction of what has come to be called in Trini- 
dad the denominational system. His recommendation was as follows : - 
'. . . I propose that the plan now in force of exclusive management 
on the part of the State shall be abolished; and that, in future, all 
schools shall be placed under the care of responsible persons having 
local relation or connexion with the places in which the schools are 
situated. The person who, in the first instance, applies to establish a 
school in connexion with the Board of Education should be recognised 
as the local manager. If the applicant be a clergyman, so much the 
better; because the duties and opportunities of a clergyman peculiarly 
qualify him for the government of schools. If the applicant be a lay- 
man, he should be a person of station or property. 
*(a) The managers should have the power of appointing the teachers 
subject, as to character and professional qualifications, to the 
approval of the Education Board. 

*(b) When there is but one school in a locality, the teacher should 
be of the same religion as the majority of the people of the 

*(c) The manager, on his own authority, should have the power 
of dismissing the teacher without notice, provided he state in 
writing, to the Board of Education, the grounds of dismissal, 


and that the Board approve of so extreme a step being taken. 

*(d) The manager, should, however, have the power of dismissing 
the teacher upon a three months' notice without being required 
to state to the Board of Education his reasons for the dismissal. 

'(e) He should have entire control over the use of the schoolhouse, 
and have the right to employ it for any lawful purpose, before 
and after school-hours. 

*(f) He should have the determination of the religious instruction 
of the pupils, subject only to the provisions I have already laid 
down on the subject. 

6 (g) He should have the right of selecting the books to be used by 
the pupils. 

*(h) He should have the right of fixing the rate of school-fees to 
be paid by the pupils, provided the Board of Education be 
satisfied that the fees are not fixed at so high a rate as 
practically to exclude the poor from the advantages of the 

*(i) He should have the right of appointing the subjects of instruc- 
tion, and of arranging the general details of the school business, 
provided the Board of Education be satisfied that due attention 
is paid to the cultivation of the essential subjects - reading, 
writing, arithmetic, and industrial instruction. 

*G) He should have the right to give holidays, vacations, &c. to the 
masters and pupils, provided the school be kept open for 
a certain minimum number of days in the year- say 200 . . . 

*. . . The great, indeed the only, rule that I would insist upon is 
that no child should on account of class, creed, or colour be refused 
admittance to a school aided by the State; and that no child be ex- 
posed, dkectly or indirectly, to the danger of proselytism.' 

With respect to secondary education, Lord Harris, in his message, 
to the Legislative Council in 1847, had said that his education plan 
*would be rendered complete by the establishment of a college, to 
which those scholars who might be found fit might be passed on, 
so that in fact every encouragement would be given to all, however 
humble their birth, to place themselves in such a position as their 
talents and their industry would show them capable of supporting.' 

The question of establishing a college remained in abeyance until 
1857, when the Board of Council passed the following resolutions: 

1. That in order to place within the reach of the youth of the Colony 
the opportunity of obtaining a classical education at a moderate 

charge, there be established in the town of Port-of -Spain, at the 
public expense, a collegiate school. 

2. That such collegiate school be open to students of any religious 
denomination, and that there be no direct religious teaching, 
but that attendance at some place of worship be the condition 
of admittance to, and continuance at, such collegiate school. 

3. That for the purpose of encouraging emulation among the 


students, there be annual public examinations, and that the two 
successful candidates for honours at such examinations be 
entitled to exhibitions, each of 150 for three years, to assist them 
in prosecuting their studies in Great Britain or Ireland. 

4. That such collegiate school be under the superintendence of the 
Board of Education, and that the Governor with the advice 
of such Board, have power from time to time to make rules 
for the government of such collegiate school -such rules to 
be approved by the Board of Council before they are put in 

5. That for the purpose of maintaining such collegiate school, there 
be charged annually on the public funds the sum of 3,000 
sterling, and that the income from the fees from students be paid 
into the Colonial Treasury* 

The Queen's Collegiate School was formally inaugurated in 1859 
in a rented building. In the first ten years, 206 pupils were admitted, 
and the school promptly began to concentrate on the Cambridge 
examinations. Less than a fifth of the students in 1869 were coloured, 
none was black, none was Indian. 

The Roman Catholics, who had been operating since 1836 St 
Joseph's Convent in Port-of -Spain for girls, promptly attacked, in a 
petition to Queen Victoria, the college and the resolutions on which 
it was based as 'opposed to the convictions of all Roman Catholics 
who cannot admit to be beneficial to any system of education which 
is not founded on religion.' The Roman Catholics kept their children 
away, and instead, by public subscription, organised a college of their 
own in 1863 which they entrusted to the Fathers of the Congregation 
of the Holy Ghost, and which they called the College of the 
Immaculate Conception. 

The conflict between the two philosophies and the results of the 
two systems were thus indicated by Keenan in his report in 1869: 

'Upon the subject of secondary education, feeling runs high in 
the colony. There are some who would rank it next to sacrilege 
to touch a penny, or disturb even a form, of the Queen's Collegiate 
school. There are others who, if they could, would with a single 
stroke annihilate it. Similarly, the Catholic College has its champions 
and its foes . . . 

'The first thing likely to strike a person ... is the strangeness of 
the fact that whilst the white population, which is only between 5,000 
and 6,000, furnishes 142 pupils to the collegiate establishments, the 
coloured population, which, exclusive of the Coolies, numbers from 
60,000 to 70,000, furnishes only 37 pupils. Twenty-four of the 
coloured pupils are in the Catholic College, and 13 in the Queen's 
Collegiate School. 

'Lord Harris provided, as I have already stated, that every en- 
couragement should be given to all, however humble their birth. 


No such encouragement, however, is afforded to the poor in the 
Queen's Collegiate school, for the high rate of fees effectually bars 
the door against them; and at the Catholic College the authorities 
plead that they derive no aid from the State to enable them to give 
places on moderate terms to the poor. 

'The next conclusion which a person reading the reports will 
probably arrive at, is that the Queen's Collegiate school has not 
obtained the confidence of the people generally. Of the 68 pupils 
on its rolls, 28 are the sons of members of the Civil Service. This 
is a large proportion of the whole attendance. The children of the 
public officers receive a most excellent education, which, however, 
is mainly paid for by the taxes of the people. The Queen's Collegiate 
school is therefore a great boon to the public servants of the colony. 
But is the interest of the public servants to be primary and para- 
mount in the consideration of this question? 

'In measuring the relative acceptability of the two colleges to the 
people of the colony, I have to turn to the other classes -the 
merchants, the planters, and the professional men. And how does 
the case appear from this point of view? 

'At the Queen's Collegiate school there are 14 sons of merchants; 
at the Catholic College there are 4L At the Queen's Collegiate school 
there are 13 sons of planters or of proprietors; at the Catholic 
College there are 41. At the Queen's Collegiate school there are 10 
who are the sons of professional men or of others; at the Catholic 
College the number is 29. The Queen's Collegiate school has 28 sons 
of members of the public service, exclusive of 3 who are the sons 
of rectors; whilst the Catholic College has only 6. 

"These facts are conclusive. They require no comment. The 
people flock to the non-endowed college; not because its education 
is better than that which the Queen's Collegiate school affords, but 
because the principle of its foundation - the introduction of the 
religious element - is more acceptable to them. 

'In the Queen's Collegiate school there are 17 Catholic pupils - 
but 8 of them, as the sons of deceased public servants, are receiving 
a free education. The measure of spontaneous Catholic support 
given to the Queen's Collegiate school is therefore represented by 9 
pupils. From a population of something like 50,000 Catholics, this is 
a poor expression of confidence or favour. 

*At the College of the Immaculate Conception, on the other hand, 
there are 111 Catholic pupils.' 

One of the principal difficulties presented by Keenan's recom- 
mendations related to the dominant position of the French language 
among the Roman Catholics. Keenan was at great pains to minimise 
these difficulties. In respect of his proposal for the introduction of 
denominational managers, he wrote: 

'Some of the priests are unacquainted with English. This is, no 


doubt, a drawback; for it must be a sine qua non that English shall 
be the language of the schools. I have been assured, however, by 
the Archbishop that should the Government - as I think it ought, 
after the lapse of a reasonable time -require the managers to be 
acquainted with English, that they may be able to conduct the 
examinations of the schools in English. His Grace would be 
prepared to enjoin upon the priests the duty of immediately master- 
ing the language. But I should add that the non-English-speaking 
clergymen are gentlemen of rare intelligence and accomplishments, 
and bent beyond measure upon promoting the education of 
the people. That they thoroughly understand the people -their 
language, their ways, and their faults, is a circumstance which, per- 
haps, outweighs the temporary inconvenience resulting from the 
reverend gentlemen's imperfect acquaintance with the English 

Of the Roman Catholic College at secondary level and the prom- 
inence accorded to French, Keenan had this to say: 

*. . . The fact that such prominence is given to French in the 
system of instruction; that the community who conduct it are a 
French order; that half the professors are Frenchmen; that nearly 
half the pupils are the children of French families; and that the 
discipline and ceremonials of the school are founded upon French 
models, have all contributed to inspire the designation of the 
"French College" by which the institution is popularly known. 
Indeed, the fact that the college is a Catholic college would be 
quite reason enough to suggest to the people to call it the 
"French College" just as they call a Catholic church the "French 

'In an English colony it would seem only natural to expect that 
a great public school like this, advancing a claim on Governmental 
consideration for its support, and appealing for the popular favour 
to its success in turning out intelligent and enterprising citizens, 
should be conducted on what are recognised as English principles 
- that is, that the language, the tone, and the social atmosphere of 
the school should be English. To a certain extent I sympathise with 
such an expectation. Every person I met with in Trinidad, including 
His Grace the Archbishop, the leading Catholic clergy, Dr de 
Verteuil, Mr Farfan, and the professors themselves of the college, 
sympathised with it. But I cannot close my eyes to the difficulties 
of -and even the objections to -a sudden metamorphosis. I have 
before me, as I write, the name of every boy in the school, with 
the nationality of his parents or family. 

'Of the 111 boys 
48 belong to French families. 
33 Spanish 
30 English 

Would it be rational to attempt to extinguish the instincts of 


vernacular speech in the vast majority of the children? Would it 
be philosophical to fail to cultivate the mind, and fill it with stores 
of knowledge, in the language most natural to it? I do not, there- 
fore, condemn the college because it is so French in its character; 
nor do I venture to advise the suppression of the French element; 
but, at the same time, I think that, without being made less French, 
the college could be made much more English than it is. The pro- 
fessors themselves are of this opinion, and have expressed their 
readiness to act upon it.' 

The Governor, acting on Keenan's recommendations, proposed to 
the Legislative Council important modifications to the system estab- 
lished by Lord Harris. These involved the provision of State aid for 
schools established by private persons, on the following conditions: 

(1) That the property and control of the schools were vested in 
a local manager, or managers, having the power (a) to appoint the 
teacher, provided he or she was duly certified by the Board of 
Education; (b) to make use of the schoolhouse for any lawful pur- 
pose, before and after school hours; (c) to grant holidays and vaca- 
tions, provided the school was kept open not less than 200 days 

(2) That the teacher of the school was duly licensed by the Board 
of Education. 

(3) That the school was open to all children, without distinction 
of religion or race. 

(4) That no child received any religious instruction objected to 
by the parent or guardian of such child; or was present whilst such 
instruction is given. 

(5) That free access was given, under regulations approved by 
the Board of Education, to all ministers of religion who might desire 
to afford religious instruction to children of their own persuasion 
who were pupils in such schools. 

(6) That the school was to be, jat all times, open to inspection. 

(7) That the rules and books used in secular education were 
subject to the approval of the Board of Education. 

(8) That the aid to which such schools were to be entitled should 
consist of: 

(i) provision for the remuneration of teachers, by (a) a fixed 
salary dependent upon the possession of a first, second, or third 
class certificate, obtainable by examination; (b) a capitation grant, 
paid proportionately to the educational results certified annually 
by the Inspector of Schools; (c) a capitation grant paid propor- 
tionately to the attendance of pupils, certified quarterly by the local 
manager or managers; 

(ii) grants in aid of the erection of buildings and supply of neces- 
saries proportionate to the amount obtained from private sources. 

Further modifications were made by the Ordinance of 1875 in the 


principles governing State aid to denominational primary schools. 
The new conditions, summarised, were as follows: 

(1) That provision, to the satisfaction of the Board of Education, 
was made for the control and management of the schools by the 
local manager or managers. 

(2) That the school was open at all times to inspection or examina- 
tion by the Inspector of Schools, or by any officer appointed by 
Government for the purpose. 

(3) That the average daily attendance at the school, computed 
on a period of a year, was not less than twenty-five. 

Subject to the provisions of the Ordinance, the aid to which any 
school became entitled consisted of a certain annual capitation grant, 
according to the results of an annual examination of the school in 
secular instruction by an Inspector of Schools, such annual capitation 
grant being at the rate of: 

(i) $4.80 for each pupil passed in the First and Second Standards; 

(ii) $6.00 for each pupil passed in the Third and Fourth 


(iii) $7.20 for each pupil passed in the Fifth and Sixth Standards. 
At the end of 1880 there were in operation in Trinidad a total of 
96 schools -3 secondary, 2 normal with model schools, 52 govern- 
ment primary schools, and 39 assisted primary schools. There were 
332 students in the secondary schools - 80 at the Queen's Collegiate 
School, 142 at the College of the Immaculate Conception, 110 at St 
Joseph's Convent. There were 408 pupils in the Model and Normal 
Schools. The government primary schools had 3,964 pupils, and the 
assisted schools 3,807. In addition, where were 590 Indian children 
in estate schools. 

In 1889 the Governor, Sir William Robinson, appointed a Commit- 
tee to consider and report on the working of the education system in 
Trinidad. The Committee found that very few of Sir Patrick Keenan's 
suggestions had been implemented, and that Government schools had 
been fostered and Assisted Denominational Schools discouraged. It 
laid the whole blame on the Board of Education. More important it 
attacked the philosophy enunciated by Keenan twenty years before 
and came out boldly for what was tantamount to the virtual abolition 
of Government schools. The Committee advocated an educational 
system based on the following considerations and requirements : 

*That the State considers it desirable in the interests of the 
Commonwealth that the people should be educated. 

That it is the duty of the parent to educate his child, and not that 
of the State. 

That the State should compel a parent to perform this duty, if 
neglected, and should pay for the Education of a child on being 
satisfied that the parent is unable to do so. 

'That a child should be educated at the cost of the parent and 
not at the expense of the tax-payer who if he educates his own child- 


ren has enough to do without having to educate those of others. But 
in helping to pay for the Education of the poorer classes generally 
the tax-payer is performing a simple duty and in contributing to 
assist Education he discharges an obligation imposed in the interests 
of the common weal. 

That the State in giving effect to the law of compulsion, and in 
imposing taxation or expending public moneys for purpose of 
Education, respects the natural rights of the parent to educate his 
child as he likes, and in providing Education for those unable to 
pay for it, the State only imposes necessary safeguards to ensure 
its moneys being properly applied for the purpose. 

'That the Education required by the State does not extend beyond 
reading, writing, and arithmetic, commonly called the three Rs., but 
the State is willing to assist Education beyond this, in the general 
interests of the community. 

'That in giving assistance the aim is to encourage parents and 
those interested in the subject, and the latter consist in this Colony 
almost entirely of Ministers of Religion, to provide their own 
schools, the conditions of a grant being that a school is properly 
conducted under certain rules. 

'That in places where no schools are provided, the State will 
establish them on the secular model, but such schools will only be 
established when there is no prospect of any other school being 
provided, and withdrawn when any voluntary school is ready to 
take its place. 

'That the influence to be exercised by the State over the schools, 
in consideration of the Grant, will be directed in encouraging 
Managers to afford a simple and sound system of Education suitable 
to the character of the people and their surroundings, advising 
Managers and Teachers, requiring the Rules to be observed, and 
seeing that proper results or guarantees are obtained for the moneys 

'That it is not practicable to set up any idol of uniformity or 
national system of Education under the circumstances existing in 
the Colony, and therefore it seems desirable to rely on parents to 
discharge their duty towards their children, aiding them and com- 
pelling them to perform it in cases of neglect, and to trust to the 
assistance of religion to aid in disciplining the minds and morals 
of the children.' 

Mr Justice Lumb, a member of the Committee, disagreed sharply. 
He advocated the retention of the dual system : 

*. . . The strongest objection to the above Report is, that its main 
effect would result in the complete extinction of Government 
Schools with the substitution of Assisted Schools only. This is the 
thread that runs through the whole fabric . . . and is in distinct 
opposition to the first two principles agreed upon by the Committee 
on the 12th December, 1887 ... Being strongly in favour of both 


systems of Education working side by side in such a heterogene- 
ously composed population, in my opinion, to destroy either one 
would be a huge, lamentable, dangerous and unjust mistake. 

'Whatever scheme is adopted, it is undesirable that it should be 
for the benefit of one portion only of the community, on the con- 
trary it should be in accordance with the time-tried principle - the 
greatest good for the greatest number - and without the moral power 
of public confidence behind it, it will be certain to end in disaster 
and failure.* 

As always under the Crown Colony system, the ball was passed to 
the Secretary of State for the Colonies. Lord Knutsford gave his 
ruling in a despatch to Sir William Robinson on November 27, 1889: 

*I have come to the conclusion that I should not be justified in 
assenting to the abolition of the system of Grants-in-Aid to Denom- 
inational Schools and a return to the system of purely secular 
Schools maintained by the Government, which is advocated by the 
representatives of Protestant denominations in their Memorial of 
August last, as to which it is to be observed that, as Sir P. Keenan 
has pointed out, the opinion of the Memorialists has undergone a 
very recent change, but that the system of Government Schools 
and Assisted Schools working side by side must be continued . . . 

'It is of the first importance that the Board of Education should 
actively fulfil its duties. It is clear that much of the present evil has 
arisen from the Board's neglect of its proper functions, and I cannot 
acquit successive Governors, who have been ex-officio Presidents 
of the Board and Members of the Executive Committee, of large 
responsibility for the present disorganisation of the Education 
system. Your action in suspending the operations of the Board for 
two years pending the recent enquiry, appears to me to have been 
of questionable validity, and you should, if you thought such action 
necessary, have obtained authority for it by a special Ordinance . . . 

'One of the most difficult questions, in connection with the Public 
Education and one which was most hotly contested before the recent 
Royal Commission on Elementary Education in this country, turns 
upon the point whether a new Assisted School or Schools should be 
allowed to be established in the near neighbourhood of an existing 
Government School. I am not disposed in this matter to approve of 
the enforcement of the absolute rule expressed in the 8th condition 
of the draft Ordinance, but I would leave it to the Board to decide 
in each case. They must be trusted not to permit the waste of 
public money by allowing a number of small rival schools to be 
started . . . 

*I am of opinion that a Government School should not be estab- 
lished in any particular District where the Board is satisfied that 
sufficient accommodation is provided, or will within a reasonable 
time be provided, by an Assisted School or Schools fulfilling the 
conditions which will be required by the new Law . . . 


'Children whose parents are unable to pay School fees, and child- 
ren of indentured Indian Immigrants should be admitted to Govern- 
ment or Assisted Schools free of charge, but I agree with you in 
thinking that the time has not arrived for making education either 
compulsory or gratuitous, and that except when inability to pay is 
proved to the satisfaction of the School managers, fees at such re- 
duced scale as may be thought advisable should be retained, and 
their payment enforced by the Wardens. 

'Children of indentured Immigrants should be educated gratuit- 
ously and, if necessary, special Government Schools should be estab- 
lished for Indians . . . 

'If a sufficient supply of qualified Indian teachers cannot be 
obtained in the Colony, the question of importing some from India 
should be considered. 

*I cannot agree in your view that teachers in Assisted Schools 
(or even in Government Schools) should be treated as public ser- 
vants for pension purposes, but I incline to approve Mr Lumb's 
scheme for a Superannuation Fund to be formed by deduction from 

The model Schools in Port-of -Spain should be abolished or con- 
verted into Industrial or Training Schools. 

'The greatest defect in the system of elementary education in 
Trinidad, as in other West Indian Colonies is the want of properly 
trained teachers. Mr Lumb's Bill and draft Rules contain suffi- 
cient provisions for a Government training School, and I think that 
one such institution will be enough. It would however be incon- 
sistent, under a system of assisted denominational Schools to re- 
quire all teachers to pass through a Government undenominational 
School, and some provision should be made for the recognition of 
other training Schools.' 

In 1895 a Commission was appointed to enquire into the question 
of free and compulsory education in the primary schools of Trinidad. 
The Commission recommended that primary education should be 
made free, and that the Assisted Schools should receive, by way of 
compensation for the loss of school fees, a payment of $1.80 a year 
for each child in average attendance. It recommended further that 
education should be compulsory for children from the ages of six to 
ten, that Local Attendance Committees should be established in each 
town, ward, or school district, the duties of Attendance Committee 
Officer being executed by the Sanitary Inspectors in the towns and 
the Ward Officers in the ward on the basis of some addition to their 
substantive salaries. One member of the Committee, Canon Trotter, 
advocated the introduction, simultaneously, of free and compulsory 
education in the entire island. 

This was the Crown Colony system of education in a colony that 
was twice as wealthy, from the revenue point of view, as Jamaica or 
Barbados, and which had been able, for half a century before 1900, 


to finance the introduction of indentured Indian immigrants partly 
at public expense, purely for the benefit of the sugar planters. The 
Government's expenditure in 1896 on immigration and other aids for 
the sugar industry - medical department, police, jails, rail way - 
represented approximately 40 per cent of the total expenditure. Ex- 
penditure on police and prisons alone was one-half larger than the 
expenditure on education. 

The worst victims of colonialism in this respect were the children 
of the indentured immigrants. Until the arrival of the Canadian 
Mission to the Indians in the 1860's, no attention was paid to them 
at all, and they boycotted the ward schools set up by Lord Harris. 
Rev. Morton, at the time Presbyterian Minister of lere Village, 
pleaded with Keenan for the establishment of schools in the sugar 
areas. Keenan himself commented on this aspect of the education 
system of the colony: 

The Government has exhibited a paternal solicitude for the 
physical wants and comforts of the indentured class of Asiatic 
immigrants; it has required that hospitals shall be provided for 
them on the estates; that medical attendance shall be every week 
at their service; and even - in compliance with an Ordinance passed 
during my stay in the colony -that cooked food shall be provided 
for them during the first six months after their allotment to an estate. 
But the solicitude of the State ended here. The moral and intel- 
lectual necessities were overlooked. The Coolie's mind was left a 
blank. No effort was made to induce him, through the awakening 
intelligence and dawning prospects of his children, to associate the 
fortune or the future of his family with the colony. It is therefore 
that - collaterally, and I believe legitimately - 1 connect the magni- 
tude of the periodical exodus of the Asiatics with the educational 
system, which fails to provide for their children acceptable schools. 
I cannot call to mind any other case of a people who, having volun- 
tarily come to a strange land which they enriched by their labour, 
were -morally and intellectually - so completely neglected as the 
Coolies have been during the past twenty-four years . . . 

*I would recommend that the proprietors of estates should be 
encouraged to open schools for the special accommodation of Coolie 
children. As regards salaries, religious instruction, &c., I would 
treat such schools in exactly the same way as the ordinary schools. 
The two fundamental principles characteristic of the proposed 
system of public education should be strictly applied to the Coolie 
schools, viz. (1) they should be open to all comers, and (2) all comers 
should be protected from even the suspicion of proselytism. If the 
observance of these fundamental rules were guaranteed, the Coolie 
might then be safely entrusted with the secular and religious training 
of the children of his own caste. 1 

The whole emphasis, therefore, was on separation and division of 


the two major racial groups, in much the same way as the Govern- 
ment of the day, in 1890, prescribed separate latrine accommodation 
for Negroes and Indians on the sugar plantations. Rev. R. H. Moor, 
who established an Anglican School in Belmont in 1888, endeavoured 
to set up a separate school in Belmont for some 30 or 40 children of 
Indian labourers, in addition to the separate schools he had estab- 
lished in Peru Village, Rose Hill, Phoenix Park, Cedros and Columbia, 
two miles from Cedros. Rev. Moor justified the racial separation as 
follows : 

'In my Mission Report for 1887-88 I gave it as my emphatic 
opinion and this opinion is being strengthened every day, that a 
mixed school, i.e. for Creoles and Indians will be a mistake. An 
Indian will not send his child to a Creole school. He is afraid of 
injustice being done his child from the Creole teacher, and of ill- 
usage from the Creole pupils. The Creole, as a rule, looks down on 
the Indian: he is a semi-civilised being, he speaks a barbarous 
language, and his manners are barbarous. He comes to Trinidad to 
make money for there is no money in his own country, so he thinks. 
He takes work cheaper than the Creole will do, hence he must be 
ill-treated where he can be ill-treated with impunity/ 

The grim reality of the Crown Colony system, in so far as education 
was concerned, was revealed in the evidence of two sugar planters, 
Mr E. A. Robinson and Mr C. Knox, in evidence before a Select Com- 
mittee of the Legislative Council appointed in 1926 to 'enquire whether 
it is desirable to introduce legislation to fix or restrict the hours of 
labour in any particular trade, business or industry in the Colony*. 
The Committee included two of the first elected members in the 
Legislature of Trinidad and Tobago, Capt. Cipriani and Mr A. V. 
Stollmeyer. L. A. P. O'Reilly, a nominated unofficial, was also a mem- 
ber of the Committee. 

Here is the evidence of Mr E. A. Robinson: 
'Mr O'Reilly : With regard to children? 

'Mr R.: We have none in the factory, but 120 work outside. They 

are from 10 years of age up to 20; they work from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

'Mr O'Reilly: Do you think it is satisfactory to have a child of 10 

working that number of hours? 

*Mr R.: This is an agricultural country. Unless you put the children 
on to working in the fields when they are young, you will never 
get them to do so later. If you want to turn all these people into a 
lot of clerks, caneweighers, and people of that sort, all you have 
to do is to prevent them working in the fields until they are 16 years 
old; then I guarantee you will have but very few labourers in the 
Colony, but if you train them to work in the fields you will never 
have any difficulty. 
'Mr O'Reilly: You agree that the present system shuts them off from 

'Mr R.: They are well-fed! 


'Mr O'Reilly: I am talking of their education. If they are educated 

they won't want to be labourers? 

'Mr R.: No. Give them some education in the way of reading and 
writing, but no more. Even then I would say educate only the bright 
ones; not the whole mass. If you do educate the whole mass of the 
agricultural population, you will be deliberately mining the country. 

'Mr O'Reilly: From the health point of view, is it satisfactory to have 
children working for such long hours? 

'Mr R.: I cannot tell you, except that physically they are far better 
off than the children who idle in the street. 

'Mr O'Reilly: Are they doing regular work during their hours of 

'Mr R.: Yes; but they are working in the open air, not in a stuffy 
factory. Even then they do not work when it rains. They are 
accustomed to the sun, which does not hurt them; they do not 
physically suffer at all. 

'Mr Stollmeyer: What do you say to the suggestion that they are 
cheaper to employ than adults? 

'Mr R.: I do not say so at all; but if you did not employ them, I 
am certain there would not be enough labourers. They are paid 
quite in proportion. They get about 20 cents a day . . . 

'Mr Cipriani: You say that all the children should be sent to work 
in the fields and not sent to school? 

'Mr R.: Not all: give the bright ones a chance to win as many 
scholarships as they can; give the others 3 hours education a day. 

'Mr O'Reilly : You do not suggest that you could, by giving a child 
3 hours' education a day make it proficient at the age of 10 years? 
My view was that a convenient age would be 12. 

'Mr R.: I have no objection to 12; but if you keep them longer you 
will never get them to work in the fields. 

*Mr O'Reilly: You would not object to a maximum of 12 years? 

'Mr R.: No; but if you want agricultural labourers and not dis- 
satisfaction, you must not keep them longer.' 
Mr Robinson was followed by Mr Knox, whose evidence in relation 

to child labour was as follows: 

'Mr O'Reilly: Do you think it is satisfactory to employ children 
under 12? 

'Mr K.: What are you going to do with them? 

'Mr O'Reilly: Send them to school. 

'Mr K.: They prefer to work in the fields. 

'Mr O'Reilly: You suggest that a child should go to work before 10? 

'Mr K. : They should go as soon as they are able to work, as long as 
this is an agricultural country. 

'Mr O'Reilly: A child of 10 would not get very proficient even before 
12, in the normal way, so don't you think it would be more satis- 
factory to say that a child under 12 should be sent to school? 

'Mr K.: It would be of no use to them. 

'Mr O'Reilly: Then they are to be without any education at all? 


'Mr K.: As long as this is an agricultural country. Personally I prefer 
to deal with adults because they have more experience. 

'Mr O'Reilly : Well, if that is so, why don't you? 

'Mr Fraser: Mr Knox means that if children were not employed now, 
there would not be enough agricultural labourers in years to come! 

'Mr K.: I will say 12 if you like; there's not much difference. 

'Mr O'Reilly: I think there is. 

'Mr K. : Of what use will education be to them if they had it? 

'Mr Fraser : They would be better citizens.' 

The Crown Colony system was based on sugar workers and needed 
only sugar workers. It did not need citizens. If Trinidad aspired to 
citizens instead of sugar workers, it necessarily had to achieve the 
destruction of the Crown Colony system. That was the object of the 
movement for self -government which moved into a new phase at the 
end of World War I. 


The Movement for Self-Government, 
1921 to 1956 

By the end of the First World War three decisive changes had taken 
place in Trinidad. 

The first was the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in 1910. 
Trinidad, producing sugar which was of no interest to the British Board 
of Trade, became an oil colony of enormous importance to the British 
Admiralty. The output of crude oil increased from 125,112 barrels 
in 1910 to 2,083,027 barrels in 1920. 

The second decisive change that took place in Trinidad was the 
abolition of the indentured system of Indian labour, based very largely 
on the opposition of the nationalist movement in India. On March 20, 
1916, Pandit Mohan Malaviya moved in the Indian Legislative Coun- 
cil that 'early steps be taken for the abolition of the system of Indian 
indentured labour'. This motion reflected the persistent agitation that 
was going on throughout India for the immediate abolition of recruit- 
ing for indentured labour. At mass meetings held in all the great 
centres of population the indentured system was attacked on the 
ground that it was based on fraudulent statements made by the re- 
cruiter and that the direct result of the system was the slavery of the 
men and the prostitution of the women. The agitation was also based 
on the superior opportunities available in India itself for employment 
as compared with the low wages paid in the colonies. The Viceroy 
himself, Lord Hardinge, gave expression to this point of view in his 
speech before the Indian Legislative Council on March 20, 1916: 

'Why should the labourer have to journey thousands of miles over 
the "black water" to settle in a strange country and to place himself 
for a long period under conditions often of an undesirable, and 
in some cases of a revolting nature in order to achieve the desired 
end, when he can obtain in India the choice of either better paid 
labour, as for instance, in the big jute areas of Eastern Bengal, or 
almost equally well paid labour with the prospects of obtaining in 
a very few years a home and a piece of land on the Assam tea 
gardens? It seems rather absurd to find a man going to Fiji for a 
wage of 26 /- a month with rice at 2| seers to the rupee, when he 
can readily earn 6/- or 7/- a week during the jute season in Eastern 
Bengal with rice selling at a third of the price prevailing in Fiji, with 
the additional advantage that he can, if he likes, with far greater 
ease, take his family with him to add to his earnings than in the 
case of distant Colonies. It is clear then that the cooly himself does 
not stand to gain much by emigration/ 

H 215 


In Trinidad itself the system was on its last legs. In 1915 there were 
in Trinidad 8,827 Indians not indentured as compared with a total 
Indian population in the 1911 Census of 121,895 Indians who had 
completed their indenture. -These Indians had 90,314 acres under 
cultivation - of these 56,414 were in cocoa; 9,698 in ground provi- 
sions; 9,488 in rice; 9,368 in sugar-cane; 3,081 in corn; 1,740 in 
coconuts; 408 in coffee; 117 in fruits. 

The third change that came over Trinidad in the war years was the 
emergence of the working class movement, assisted quite accidentally 
by the overseas service of the British West Indian Regiment. The 
Regiment won no startling successes and achieved no startling acclaim 
except in so far as the Secretary of State for the Colonies was able to 
advise the Governor on August 30, 1917 that the West Indian boys 
stationed in Egypt had developed good fellowship with the Australians, 
New Zealanders and men from all parts of the Empire, had shown 
their prowess at cricket and sports, and at two athletic meetings had 
carried all before them. Apart from this, the West Indian boys did 
their marching behind the lines and were put to patrol the railway 
and pipe lines; on one occasion, when a hostile aeroplane landed 
behind the lines in an endeavour to destroy the railway, the enemy 
was engaged by a patrol of the British West Indian Regiment, and 
pilot and passenger were obliged hurriedly to return to their plane 
leaving their explosives behind them. 

But the West Indian soldiers brought back explosives of their own 
to the British West Indies, principally Captain Arthur Andrew 
Cipriani, who on his return was asked to revive the Trinidad Working 
Men's Association. Thus did Cipriani enter politics in Trinidad, 
ultimately forming the Trinidad Labour Party with a programme of 
socialism, in close communication with the British Labour Party. 

The discovery of oil, the abolition of indentured servitude, and 
the organisation of the Trinidad Labour Party formed the back- 
ground to an intensification of the demand for constitution reform 
at the end of the war. The movement was West Indian in scope and 
not limited to Trinidad. The British Government sent out the Parlia- 
mentary Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Honourable 
E, F. L. Wood, on a visit to the West Indies and British Guiana. 

By the time Major Wood reached Trinidad, he found two funda- 
mental changes in the situation which Froude and Joseph Chamberlain 
had encountered in the previous quarter of a century. In 1887 and 
1903, the principal advocates for constitution reform were members 
of the upper class, planters, merchants, white or coloured, but some 
of them, progressive in their thinking, demanded votes for Indians 
and the extension of the Municipal franchise in Port-of -Spain. In 
1887 and in 1903 the movement for constitution reform was as national 
in scope as any movement in the Crown Colony period could be 

Major Wood encountered a totally different situation. The principal 
opponents of any change in the constitution were the Trinidad Cham- 


ber of Commerce who, in their representations to Major Wood, re- 
garded the demand for constitution reform as largely inspired by 
movements external to the colony; and they pointed, just as Cham- 
berlain had done in 1903, to the prosperity of Trinidad under its 
existing form of government which, in their view, afforded adequate 
representation to every interest. These were the very people who had 
taken the most prominent part in the agitation against the Crown 
Colony system which led to the Water Riots of 1903. The Agricultural 
Society was also not in favour of changing the existing form of 
government. In 1903 it was Joseph Chamberlain, the Secretary of 
State for the Colonies, who stated that the Crown Colony system was 
the best form of government for Trinidad. In 1889 Thomas, in attack- 
ing Froude, had emphasised the respectability and the status of the 
commercial and agricultural advocates for constitution reform. In 
1921 it was the commercial and agricultural interests in Trinidad, 
some of the very people who had objected to the suspension of the 
Port-of -Spain Municipality in 1898, who were echoing Joseph Cham- 
berlain's words and agreeing that the Crown Colony system of 
government was the best for Trinidad. 

In 1889 before the Royal Franchise Commission, in so far as it was 
possible for the two major racial groups submerged by the Crown 
Colony System to express an opinion, both Negroes and Indians sup- 
ported the demand for constitution reform. By 1921 Major Wood 
encountered a division between Negro and Indian as well as a split 
in the Indian ranks. One group, the East Indian National Congress, 
advocated communal representation of the Indian community as one 
group, on the ground that otherwise there was a danger of their being 
outvoted, As Major Wood wrote: 

'They claimed that religious differences in the East Indian popula- 
tion did not create any political issue in the Colony between the 
Christian, Hindu, and Mohammedan, and could not fairly be 
adduced as a reason for refusing separate representation to them 
as a race. They recommended that everyone who paid direct taxes, 
however small, should exercise the franchise. They were opposed 
to any educational test, which they did not consider would be re- 
quired if proof of payment of taxes was given. They agreed, how- 
ever, that if any test were to be imposed, it would meet their wishes 
if literacy in any language were regarded as adequate. They would 
have no objection to the representation of particular industries.* 

The other section of the Indian community was represented by a 
deputation of Indians who opposed any change in the Crown Colony 
system, and claimed that the system of nomination was a good one 
because it permitted representation for the various and widely differ- 
ing nationalities which comprised the colony of Trinidad and Tobago. 
Their views as stated by Major Wood were as follows : 

The chief reason for their opposition was the fact that the com- 


plete substitution of election for nomination might operate to the 
disadvantage of the East Indian community and deprive them of 
the only representative whom they now had in the Council. They 
asked that this representation on the Legislative Council should be 
increased. In their view, the fact that East Indians were not in a 
position to return members under the representative system was 
ultimately due to the lack of educational facilities available for the 
East Indian community, for which they could not be blamed. It 
was not, therefore, reasonable to expect the East Indian community 
to be properly represented in proportion to its members. They were 
asked if they would have the same anxiety as to the prejudicial effect 
of a system of election if any literacy test imposed were not con- 
fined to English. They admitted that their position would be im- 
proved, but this would not remove their objections to any change. 
They stated that the advocates of communal representation were 
few, that their deputation represented the chief section of the East 
Indians, and that the wealthiest and best-educated East Indians were 
among them. Most of their supporters belonged to San Fernando 
and the southern district of the Colony.* 

The principal advocates of constitution reform were the Trinidad 
Working Men's Association. It proposed an income qualification for 
a voter of $20.00 a month or payment of an annual rent of $96.00, and 
qualifications for membership of the Legislative Council of an income 
of $100.00 a month or a capital of $2,400. 

Major Wood's recommendations were not in any sense revolu- 
tionary. He opposed responsible government and did not consider that 
such a demand could rightly be considered *within measurable dis- 
tance of time'. In his view four principal factors militated against it: 
the mixed character of the population and the backwardness of large 
sections; the absence of a leisured class, independent of local ties; 
the necessity of the Secretary of State to retain the controlling in- 
fluence in order to secure uniformity of administration among the 
adjacent colonies; and the small proportion of the electorate who in 
fact exercised the franchise in those colonies with representative 
government. He emphasised also: 

The risk, which is no small one, that the only effect of granting 
responsible government might be to entrench in power a financial 
oligarchy, which would entirely dominate the Colony and use their 
power for the sole purpose of benefiting one class instead of the 
community as a whole.* 

The new Legislative Council as recommended by Major Wood in- 
cluded 26 members. The unofficial side of the Council was increased 
from 11 to 13, seven of whom were to be elected and six nominated. 
The official members of the Council were increased in number from 
10 to 12, whilst the Governor retained his original and his casting vote 
to ensure an official majority. 


Major Wood rejected the communal system of representation. His 
views on this matter are important for the subsequent constitutional 
and political history of Trinidad and Tobago. They are as follows: 

*It will be seen from the above that I have not adopted the system 
of the election of members by particular interests or any system 
of communal representation. We came to the conclusion that the 
objections to the first were insuperable on the ground of the diffi- 
culties of determining what the constituency would be and of 
drawing the line between bodies which should, or should not, be 
represented. Moreover, the concession would not satisfy those who 
are clamouring for a change. As regards communal representation, 
apart from the objection that this arrangement would be opposed 
by the chief advocates of constitution change, there would again 
be great difficulty in deciding what the constituencies were to be, 
and, moreover, it would accentuate and perpetuate the differences 
which, in order to produce a homogeneous community, it should 
be the object of statesmanship to remove. The East Indians are 
an important element in the community, and it would be a great 
misfortune if they were encouraged to stand aside from the main 
current of political life instead of sharing in it and assisting to guide 
its course. Finally, if a concession of this kind were granted to the 
East Indians, there would be no logical reason for withholding it 
from persons of French, Spanish or Chinese descent, a situation 
which would become impossible. By retaining the system of nomina- 
tion by the Crown, it will always be possible to secure representatives 
on the Council of races or important interests not otherwise 
adequately represented by direct election.' 

Thus, for the first time since 1797, for the first time in 128 years 
of British rule, the people of Trinidad and Tobago, in a limited num- 
ber had the right to elect a small proportion of their own represen- 
tatives. The limitations seem almost ludicrous 40 years later. In 
accordance with the recommendations of the Franchise Commission 
appointed to work out the details of Major Wood's recommendations, 
candidates for election to the Legislative Council were required to 
own real estate of a minimum value of $12,000 or from which they 
derived an annual income of $960; alternatively they were required 
to have an income of over $1,920 per annum from any source. 
Candidates must have resided in their constituency for one year or 
own there real estate of $24,000 in value or from which they derived 
an annual income of $1,920. Only male candidates able to read and 
write English were eligible for election. Members of the Council were 
unpaid, although a subsistence allowance of $5.00 was granted to the 
elected member for Tobago when attending meetings of the Council; 
not until 1939 did unofficial members of the Council receive payment 
at the rate of $720 per year, which was increased to $1,800 in 1947 and 
again to $3,840 in 1949. 

The franchise was limited by high property and income qualifica- 


tions- occupation as owner for one year of property of $60 rateable 
value in a borough or $48 elsewhere; occupation as tenant paying 
$60 per month rent in a borough or $48 elsewhere; or payment as 
a lodger for one year of $60 rent or $300 rent and board combined; 
or occupation as owner or tenant under agreement of property paying 
at least $2.40 per annum land tax; or annual salary of $300.00. The 
age limit was 21 years in the case of male voters and 30 years in the 
case of female voters, and voters were required to understand spoken 
English. Any one who had received poor relief within six months 
before the date of his registration as a voter was disqualified from 

If this was the representative system after 128 years of British rule, 
it was certainly the representative system with a difference. It was 
the domination of property and wealth, influenced by Wood's emphasis 
on taking no action which would disturb the confidence felt by outside 
capital in the stability of the government. 

Thus did Trinidad and Tobago come to its first election on Feb- 
ruary 7, 1925. The seven constituencies were Port-of -Spain, the County 
of St George including the town of Arima, the County of Caroni, the 
County of Victoria including the town of San Fernando, the County 
of St Patrick, the Eastern Counties, and Tobago. In a total population 
of 364,828, the number of registered voters was 21,794, 6% of the total 
population. Two of the seats, Victoria and the Eastern Counties, were 
uncontested. For the other five seats, with a total population of 244,551, 
there were 15,632 registered voters, of whom 6,832 voted. 

But it was the first election in Trinidad -there had been elections 
in the 19th century in Tobago. The election has been made famous 
in Trinidad calypso : 'Who you voting for? Cipriani.' 

The composition of the Legislative Council which Cipriani entered 
did not permit the implementation of any socialist programme. The 
Governor, as the Queen's representative, was in complete charge and 
he presided over the Council. To criticise the Government was in fact 
to criticise the Queen's representative. It was difficult for him to be 
impartial, or even to appear to be impartial, in debates. He could 
always count on the votes of his nominated official members in law, 
and on the votes of his nominated unofficial members in fact. One 
of the latter, Sir Lennox O'Reilly, once protested vigorously, on March 
6, 1931, against the insinuation that he was a government stooge and 
he would either have to obey instructions of the Governor or quit his 
seat, as Cipriani taunted. O'Reilly stated: 

'Nothing of the kind! The day a Governor tells me that, he can 
have my resignation ... I could not of course accept nomination 
at the hands of the Government if I did not in my humble way 
approve the general policy of the Government. That is as far as 
it goes. It has been said over and over again by us and by Govern- 
ment that under our constitution we, nominated members of this 
House, are entitled to express our views and not the views of 


Government ... We are not, it is true, in direct touch with the 
people, because under our constitution we have not yet attained 
that stage of political development when the legislators fully repre- 
sent the people. We are in the position of trustees, to see that justice 
is done to all sections of the community.* 

But all Trinidad knew what happened to another nominated un- 
official member, Sir Gaston Johnston, who, as a Roman Catholic, 
voted against the divorce bill. Sir Gaston made heroic efforts to recon- 
cile his conflicting loyalties to the Government and to his Church, 
and to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the 
things that are God's. He failed. He was not renominated, and every- 
one knew that he was not renominated because he had voted against 
the Government. 

In addition the Legislative Council, with its minority of elected 
members was nothing more than a debating assembly, and the Govern- 
ment took the view that the elected members were there to express 
their views and not to oppose the Government. Sir Selwyn Grier, when 
he was acting Governor, expressed on November 29, 1929, the follow- 
ing conception of the functions of the Council: 

'May I say that I look upon this ... as a deliberative Council, 
one in which there will be sincere differences of opinion and in 
which the general discussion of our difficulties may lead to definite 
progress ... As far as this Council is concerned I would ask honour- 
able members that where there are definite differences of opinion 
they should be discussed on both sides in a calm spirit and that as 
far as possible we should avoid making assertions which cannot in 
my opinion promote real progress in our discussions.' 

On another occasion, on April 21, 1933, when one of the elected 
members accused certain Government contractors of dishonest prac- 
tices, Grier developed his conception of the role of the elected mem- 
ber in the Crown Colony legislature. He stated: 

*What I feel very strongly, is that it is the manifest duty of 
honourable members, when definite instances of dishonesty come 
to their notice, to bring them to the notice of Government so that 
an investigation can be held, rather than to make them the means 
of attacking the Government in the Legislative Council ... I would 
suggest that we ought to regard ourselves as a deliberative assembly 
gathered together for the purpose of considering constructive 
proposals for the general good of the community.* 

Cipriani was not impressed; He considered it his duty to attack or 
censure the Government whenever the opportunity presented itself. 

In this he was expressing his own opinion and not that of his elected 
colleagues. One of them, T. M. Kelshall, was particularly careful to 
repudiate Cipriani's view in a speech of April 27, 1925, as follows: 


The idea seems to be gaining ground that some of us on this side 
of the House are de facto in opposition ... I am not a member 
of the Opposition; I am proud to be a member of the Government 
on the Unofficial side.' 

Cipriani operated through three forums -(a) the Legislative Coun- 
cil; (b) the Port-of -Spain City Council, of which he was a member 
continuously from 1926 to 1941 and earned the distinction of serving 
as Mayor eight times, a record in the Council's history; (c) the organ 
of the Trinidad Labour Party, The Socialist, the first issue of which 
appeared in October 1935. 

The greatest value of his membership of the Legislative Council 
to him was that what he said there was privileged. He once explained 
to Sir Murchison Fletcher on November 6, 1936, that 

The only place where I can say anything which is privileged is in 
the Legislative Council. If I dare say anything outside, I am liable 
to be brought up under the libel laws of the Colony and to find 
Government and the police taking part in my prosecution, so that 
this is the only place where I can really make representation.' 

The Governor contradicted Cipriani and asserted that the law of 
libel did run in the Council. Worse than this, the same Governor once 
threatened him with prosecution and referred his speech to the 
Attorney General. Cipriani was in 1938 making his annual speech in 
opposition to the local volunteer force, specifically against the expen- 
diture of $40,000 on rifles and ammunition. After being called to order 
by the Governor, Cipriani continued: 

*We have in this Colony too long been accustomed to be ruled 
by an employer Government, and I have no doubt, Sir, that as long 
as that Government is Tory or Conservative - call it which you will 
-still it is employer, and as long as employees in this country are 
the friends, the relations and the wire-pullers of the Colonial Office, 
that condition of affairs will remain here. It is the arming of class 
against class and the depriving of that section of the community, 
whose inalienable right it is to live, to live in the country of his birth 
or adoption. 

'I, Sir, will not today OF ever will agree to the expenditure of any 
more taxpayers' money in the purchase of rifles or ammunition.' 

The Governor, Sir Murchison Retcher, at once intervened to say: 

The Colony has received full warning that Government will not 
tolerate propaganda which is calculated to set class against class 
and which is subversive of law and order. There is no privilege in 
this House. The Member for Port-of -Spain rose to tell us that we 
are buying rifles to set class against class. I refer the matter to the 
Honourable Attorney General.' 

The Socialist claimed that it was this speech which culminated in 


the dismissal of Sir Murchison Fletcher. Possibly the Governor thought 
better of it, but in any case Cipriani was not arrested or prosecuted. 

Cipriani was the only member, in the early years of the Council, 
to identify himself solely with labour. He agitated for old age pen- 
sions, minimum wages, against the employment in the colony of per- 
sons from abroad, particularly South Africans and Americans, and 
against the nomination system. 

The limitations imposed on him by the composition of the Legisla- 
tive Council led Cipriani to use his City Council forum as the centre 
of opposition to colonialism. In doing this he sought to extend the 
sphere of municipal government to an extent perhaps that could not 
really have been justified. It was Cipriani in the Port-of-Spain City 
Council for example, who fought the Crown Colony government on 
the question of the electricity franchise in Port-of-Spain. 

A foreign company, the Trinidad Electric Company, had been given 
the monopoly of electric lighting and tramway services in Port-of- 
Spain and its environs in 1901 for 30 years, with the proviso that if the 
Company applied for an extension of its rights at any time within one 
year before it expired, the Governor-in-Council might extend the 
Company's rights for a further 20 years, but that should the applica- 
tion be refused, the Governor-in-Council should purchase the Com- 
pany's undertakings. When the question of the extension of the 
Company's franchise came up in 1930. The Company adopted the 
strange attitude that it had perpetual rights and intended to file an 
action to have a declaration of these rights. The Company's claim 
was rejected by the Supreme Court of the Colony and the Company 
appealed to the Privy Council in England. The Port-of-Spain City 
Council protested against an assurance given by the Governor to the 
Company that it could continue to operate the service pending the 
Privy Council's decision. The Port-of-Spain City Council claimed the 
right to take over the Company's undertaking, which it eventually 
did, though the Government reserved the right itself to assume control 
over the extension of electricity to other parts of the country outside 

Cipriani and the Port-of-Spain City Council also took the lead in 
the attempt to take over the telephone undertaking from private enter- 
prise, and it was against Cipriani's protest that the Ordinance of 1939 
was passed giving a private Company the right to operate the telephone 
system under very favourable conditions which were not altered until 
the Company's undertaking was acquired by the Government of 
Trinidad and Tobago in 1960, at a cost of some $13 million, in accor- 
dance with the formula for purchase prescribed by the Ordinance of 


Outside of the Legislative Council and the Port-of-Spain City 
Council, Cipriani was the leader of the Trinidad Labour Party and 
a prominent writer in The Socialist. Through The Socialist Ciprianis 
speeches in the Legislative Council were made available to the Trini- 
dad working classes, as well as Cipriani's international contacts, 


particularly with the British Trade Union movement and the British 
Labour Party. Some idea may be gained of the attitude of the Trini- 
dad Labour Party to colonialism from an article in The Socialist in 
July 1938, opposing the West Indies Royal Commission appointed in 
that year : 

'The people of these small countries are just about fed-up with 
Commissions and the manner and methods employed by them in 
the taking of evidence and carrying out of their jobs which to 
them merely appears to be out to deceive and to evade the important 
issues which mean so much to them with a view to appease and 
smooth things over by a process of make-believe and the employ- 
ment of the played-out and time-worn policy of Marchand de pro- 
messes and manana.' 

Cipriani claimed at that time a membership of 120,000 in the 
Trinidad Labour Party or nearly one-third of the whole population. 
He stated also that the Party had 126 affiliated sections, comprising 
every type of worker, both male and female. 

Cipriani, himself a white man of Corsican descent, was completely 
devoid of racial antipathy and prejudices. From the very outset he 
worked easily with prominent Indians in the political sphere. The first 
issue of The Socialist carried an article by C. B. Mathura, 'Why should 
Indians and Negroes Unite,' in which Mathura stated: 

*I have been called a political agitator and a foolish one, because 
of my desire to awaken the political consciousness of the East 
Indians, and to get them to join the Trinidad Labour Party, the only 
Political Organization in the West Indies.' 

Another Indian leader, Rienzi, before he joined the Civil Service, 
had assisted Cipriani in the formation of the Trinidad Working Men's 
Association, organised a San Fernando Branch of the Association, and 
in 1924 became President of the Branch and the Association's chief 
organiser for southern Trinidad. 

In the Legislative Council Cipriani also formed a loose alliance 
with two Indian members of the Council, Teelucksingh and Roodal, 
both of whom were Vice Presidents of the Trinidad Working Men's 
Association. On Cipriani's death in 1945, Roodal became head of the 
Trinidad Labour Party, the name which the Association had adopted 
in 1932. With these Indian colleagues Cipriani brought into the work- 
ing class movement a substantial section of the Indian working class, 
giving to the Trinidad movement for self-government an inter-racial 
solidarity which augured well for the future. 

Cipriani deserves in full measure the esteem in which he has been 
held by large sections of the population of Trinidad, and was justly 
honoured a few years ago by a statue erected to him by the Port-of- 
Spain City Council in the very centre of Marine Square facing 
Frederick Street which the Port-of -Spain City Council has decided to 
rename 'Independence Square.' But by 1938 the leadership of the 


working class, both political and in the trade union field, had passed 
into other hands. 

This was the result of the economic development of the country 
in the two decades after World War I, in respect of the colony's two 
principal industries, oil and sugar. 

In 1927 the Governor of Trinidad and Tobago appointed Sir 
Thomas Holland to make a survey of the oil industry, the particular 
problems referred to him for investigation being: 

(1) the development policy designed to promote the maximum and 
most efficient exploitation of the Island's oil resources without 
impairing the Crown's policy of leasing oil in its own possession 
only to interests under British control; 

(2) the taxation of oil; 

(3) compensation for surface rights; 

(4) the organisation of the Mines Department of the Colony. 

In that year, 1927, Trinidad's oil production had attained the figure 
of 5,380,178 barrels, more than 2 times the production in 1920. 
Holland's report, which was laid before the Legislative Council on 
October 19, 1928, made two points of great significance for the future 
of the oil industry. The first was this: 'compared with the term granted 
in most countries, there is no doubt about the leniency of the royalty 
rates hitherto demanded by the Government in Trinidad.* 

Hie second point stemmed from a debate in the Legislative Council 
on April 9, 1926, when the following resolution was adopted: 

'That the Government be pleased to take steps to consider in 
what way additional revenue can be derived from the oil industry.' 

On this matter Sir Thomas Holland wrote as follows in his report: 

'During my stay in the Colony I have received views from various 
sources, firstly regarding the justification for increased taxation, 
and secondly regarding the methods by which additional revenues 
from the industry might be obtained. During the discussion on this 
resolution expression was given to what appears to be, from the 
evidence that I have obtained, a prevalent impression in Trinidad, 
namely, that oil working displaces and in other ways injures the 
staple agricultural and planting industries, without contributing 
from its profits a sufficient compensation by way of revenue. The 
form of additional taxation most commonly proposed is an export 
duty, on oil and its products. 

'The impressions referred to appear to have grown, without close 
analysis of the facts; they are, however, worth critical examination, 
althought it is beyond my province to discuss the merits of the more 
extreme assertions made to the effect that, in displacing locally the 
planting industry, the development of the oil-fields is economically 
a drawback rather then an advantage to the Colony. Obviously, it 
adds to the stability of the community to increase its variety of 


industries instead of remaining dependent on one type which is 
seriously affected by secular variations of the climate; but the in- 
trusion of a new industry on any substantial scale naturally disturbs 
the equilibrium of the local complex, and complaints are therefore 
not unexpected. I assume, however, that any questions of taxation 
are to be considered only on the assumption that the development 
of the oil resources is definitely accepted to be the public interests, 
and my observations are limited therefore to the problem of 
obtaining for the State a fair share of compensation for the inevitable 
depletion of a wasting asset, without, at the same time, discouraging 
the inflow of capital or forcing the established leaseholders to limit 
their activities to the high-grade parts of the field.' 

The second development affected the sugar industry. In 1929, as 
in 1897, the British West Indian sugar industry was bankrupt and 
was faced with almost total extinction. The explanation, in 1929 as 
in 1897, was world over-production and the consequent low prices. 
Whilst all producers suffered more or less from this, the position of 
the British West Indian producer was aggravated by the fact that he 
received only a small tariff protection of 89 cents per cwt. in the British 
market. The 1897 Royal Commission had indicated that Britain would 
do nothing and had made, with the exception of the recommendation 
about peasant land settlements, insignificant recommendations. So 
in 1929 the British Government sent out another Commission to make 
another investigation and to make other recommendations. 

The situation that faced the Commission of 1929 was very straight- 
forward. The world surplus of sugar at the end of 1929 amounted to 
over five million tons. As result of artificial stimulus to the cane sugar 
industry due to a protective tariff in certain countries, cane sugar pro- 
duction in the five-year period 1924 to 1929, as compared with the 
5-year period 1919 to 1924, had risen 50 per cent in Puerto Rico and 
Hawaii, 79 per cent in Australia, and 100 per cent in the Philippines. 
In a total world production of 28 million tons in 1929, the poor British 
West Indies and British Guiana combined produced a mere 380,000 
tons as against five million in Cuba alone. Cuba's costs of production 
were 1.8 cents per pound, and Java's 2 cents per pound. Compared 
with these, British West Indian costs of production were 2.63 cents 
per pound, and these were much lower than in other producing areas; 
the cost in Hawaii was 2.9 cents per pound, in Germany 3.4 cents, in 
the United States beet sugar industry 4 cents, and in Australia 4.93 

The British West Indies sugar industry employed directly 176,000 
persons in a total population of approximately 2 million. The percen- 
age of the population directly involved varied from 33 per cent in St 
Kitts and 31 per cent in Antigua, to 20 per cent in Barbados, 16 per 
cent in British Guiana and 3 per cent in Jamaica. In Trinidad it was 
10 per cent. The Commission of 1929 estimated that, in the event of 
the abandonment of sugar production, the working population would 


be affected to the extent of 100 per cent in St Kitts and Antigua, 66 
per cent in Barbados, 50 per cent in British Guiana, 25 per cent in 
St Lucia, and 10 per cent in Jamaica; the figure for Trinidad was 33 
per cent. 

The West Indian territories were dependent on sugar for their ex- 
port trade and their earnings of foreign currency to the extent of 97 
per cent in Antigua and 95 per cent in Barbados; 86 per cent in St 
Kitts; 60 per cent in British Guiana; 45 per cent in St Lucia; 19 per 
cent in Jamaica and 20 per cent in Trinidad: 9 per cent in St Vincent 
- a total of 35 per cent for the British West Indies and British Guiana 

The commission brought to light once more one of the worst features 
of the colonial system: its inability or its unwillingness or its in- 
difference to implement the recommendations of the Commissions of 
Enquiry or Investigation which it had appointed. The principal recom- 
mendation of the 1897 Royal Commission related to the settlement of 
the workers on the land principally for the purpose of providing some 
of the large quantities of food which were imported. The 1929 Com- 
mission drew attention to the fact that imports of food, drink and 
tobacco were approximately $26 per head of the population in Trini- 
dad and $24 in Barbados. In other territories the figure was smaller: 
nearly $18 in St Kitts, $16 in Antigua, $14.40 in British Guiana, and 
$10 in Jamaica. 

One of the great advantages of a Commission is that it lays 
the foundation for yet another Commission. So it was that the 1897 
Royal Commission permitted the 1929 Commission to reiterate its 
recommendations, with some slight expansion : 

*We are convinced, however, that, while schemes of land settle- 
ment cannot relieve the present emergency, the increased settlement 
of labourers on the land as peasant proprietors offers the best pro- 
spect of establishing a stable and prosperous economy in the West 
Indian Colonies. We regret that, with exceptions to which we refer 
more particularly elsewhere, so little has been done to carry out the 
strong recommendations of the 1897 Commission in this direction. 
We desire to reiterate those recommendations as an essential part 
of the general policy for the progressive solution of the present 
difficulties of the West Indian Colonies. In addition, we strongly 
recommend that every attention should be given to the development 
of co-operation among the smaller producers and to assisting them 
with credit facilities and in the preparation and marketing of their 
crops. Without such co-operation peasant production can hardly 
establish itself against the competition of larger units.* 

But the 1929 Commission differed from its predecessor in 1897 in 
one important respect. The 1897 Commission had merely thrown up 
its hands in despair and said that nothing could be done to help the 
West Indies to compete with the beet sugar producer because the 
British people and the British Government wanted cheap sugar. The 


1929 Commission emphasised that West Indian sugar production was 
not particularly inefficient and a grant of direct financial assistance 
could place it upon a stable footing and defend it in the future from 
further vicissitudes of the character which had repeatedly affected 
and crippled it in the past. It warned the British Government that it 
should insist on raising the standards of cleanliness and sanitary con- 
ditions both in the sugar factories and in the housing of sugar workers, 
and emphasised that any withdrawal of the then limited preferences 
would lead to the infallible deterioration of even the limited progress 
that had been made and inevitable pressure to reduce wages which 
were already at a bare subsistence level. 

The problem was therefore a problem for the British Government 
which the 1929 Commission placed squarely at the door of the British 
Government; by implication it attacked Britain's entire policy in the 
19th century to the West Indies, and the laissez-faire attitude of its 
1897 predecessor: 

'It has become increasingly difficult for us to imagine how any- 
one can suppose -if anyone does -that it would be of advantage 
for the people of Great Britain, for the British Empire, or for the 
world, that British consumers of sugar should be enabled to buy 
their sugar at an advantage of perhaps a farthing a pound through 
the acceptance of tribute from the taxpayers of other nations or the 
under-paid labour of Cuban colonos, Haytian primitives, or con- 
gested Javan peasants, at the cost of destroying old-established and 
valuable organic British communities successfully developing the 
solution of the problems of racially mixed populations, such as those 
we have been surveying in the West Indies. Very great damage 
would be done to the inhabitants and societies of those communities 
themselves, which, on ethical or Imperial grounds, it might well be 
judged imperative to avoid: but on material grounds alone the 
economic argument of the possible interest of British consumers 
would appear to us to be quite inadequate to commend such a pro- 
posal. If the loss to British export trade which the destruction of the 
West Indian market, so far as it depends upon sugar production, 
would cause is taken into consideration, and if it is admitted that 
there would be an obligation upon the Imperial Government to 
provide at least the expenditure necessary for the relief of distress, 
and for carrying on the institutions of local government in those 
Colonies which would chiefly suffer, it cannot but be recognised 
that the pecuniary balance of profit to the British community, as 
taxpayers, consumers and producers, which would accrue through 
the reduction of the price of all the sugar they buy to the lowest 
competitive open market rates at which it could be obtained, would 

be either on the wrong side or at best very small.' 

The world economic depression of 1929 hit this crazy West Indian 
structure like a thunderbolt, and showed up in all its nakedness the 
hoiiowness of the Crown Colony system. 


The 1929 Sugar Commission had particularly stated that Trinidad 
produced upon a visitor, especially after a tour of the Lesser Antilles 
and British Guiana, 'a pleasant impression of general prosperity.* 
There has always been a tendency, when foreigners look at Trinidad, 
and especially foreigners representing the British Government, to 
say that Trinidad's oil economy differentiates it from its agricultural 
neighbours, and to ignore, behind the outward signs of limited pros- 
perity, the grim social realities. It is almost as if such observers come 
to Trinidad with preconceived views of the standard of living that 
should be attained by a colonial population, and having seen superior 
standards in Trindad, they simply say that Trinidad is wealthy and 
needs no further attention. 

The grim realities in Trinidad were displayed in all their starkness 
by the Commission that investigated the disturbances in 1937. This is 
an analysis of the position encountered by the Commission: 

(1) Sugar production had almost doubled in the 10 years, before 
- 1936, 'During this period of rationalisation, labour contributed 

its share by continuing to accept a standard of wage and living 
conditions far below what is desirable. It would appear that 
during the period in question the resources of the estates must 
have been almost exclusively utilized in carrying out the 
programme . . .' 

(2) Cocoa production had declined from an average of 57 million 
pounds in the three-year period 1927 to 1929 to an average of 
33 million pounds in the three-year period 1934 to 1936: 'there 
would appear to be no prospect of the cocoa industry recover- 
ing to its former position as the principal agricultural staple of 
the Colony/ 

(3) With respect to coffee: 'At present it is only possible to grow 
coffee profitably if the cultivation and overhead expenses are 
borne largely by the cocoa crop.' 

(4) With respect to citrus: *We understand, however, that in view 
of the extensive cultivation of this crop in Palestine you con- 
sider the future outlook offers such poor prospects for a profit- 
able market price for grapefuit grown in Trinidad that you 
have deemed it necessary to issue to the Colony a warning not 
to extend unduly the acreage under this crop.' 

(5) As far as oil was concerned, production had increased from 
5,380,178 barrels in 1927, the year immediately prior to Sir 
Thomas Holland's Report, to 13,237,030 barrels in 1936. 
Trinidad had thus become the leading Empire producer of oil, 
accounting for 62.8 per cent of Empire production in 1936. 
This, however, was less than 1 per cent of world production for 
the same year. 

(6) With respect to asphalt, average production for the five-year 
period 1932-1936 had declined to 44 per cent of the pre- 
depression average. 


That was the economic picture presented in 1937. The social side 
of the picture is as follows. The Indian population in particular was 
riddled with hookworm. The incidence of infestation was 79 per cent 
in the Cunupia district, 80 per cent in Capara and Todds Road, 80 
per cent in Guaracara district. Post mortem examination of Indians 
performed at the Colonial Hospital in Port-of -Spain revealed that the 
worms were found in enormous numbers in 50 per cent of all adult 
Indian patients, the incidence being highest in women. The commis- 
sion concluded: 

*It appears from the evidence that hookworm must be a major 
factor in reducing efficiency among the East Indian community. 
Generally, we understand that the Health Department, in consider- 
ing such evidence as is at present available, is tending more and 
more to the opinion that malaria and hookworm will be found to 
be the cause of the greater part of the debility and sickness in both 
East and West Indians in country districts. 1 

Here are the Commission's strictures on the general housing con- 
ditions in the colony: 

*It is hardly too much to say that on some of the sugar estates 
the accommodation provided is in a state of extreme disrepair, and 
thoroughly unhygienic . . . 

'Nor is the type of dwelling referred to confined to the agricul- 
tural districts. We visited "barrack" dwellings in Port-of -Spain which 
are indescribable in their lack of elementary needs of decency and 
for which, we learned, monthly rents varying from twelve to fifteen 
shillings a room are paid . . . 

'We visited the Waterloo sugar estate and were shown the plans 
of an admirable scheme of rehousing, but were subsequently 
advised that since the scheme was prepared the undertaking had 
been converted into a public company (which, we understand, is 
mainly United Kingdom personnel), and that the shareholders' 
money could not be used for the carrying out of the scheme, which 
must now depend upon the profits made by the company. As some 
of the worst type of barrack dwellings are to be found on lands 
belonging to this company, we could only conclude that the Direc- 
tors were failing to realize that the claim of the workpeople for the 
common decencies of home life should be one for primary con- 
sideration, and that by maintaining the existing conditions they were 
providing ground for justifiable discontent . . . 

'In general, our view is that up to the present there has been a 
lack of a co-ordinated and definite policy for the decent housing 
of labour on the sugar estates . . . 

*If housing of workers resident in agricultural estates leaves much 
to be desired, the conditions in some of the villages are even more 
unsatisfactory. An example of this is to be seen in the case of Fyza- 
bad, a village which has grown up on the edge of the oilfields with- 


out any apparent regulation or control or observance of elementary 
rules as to structure, space, or sanitation, and which forms a suitable 
rendezvous for all the undesirable elements which congregate in 
the neighbourhood of new industrial developments where men 
obtaining comparatively high wages are to be found. In the recent 
disturbances Fyzabad was the centre of activity of the hooligan 
element which played so conspicuous a part in the attempts to 
provoke riot and damage to life and property. Similar examples of 
the worst village housing conditions adjacent to oilfields exist at 
Frisco Village, Point Fortin, and Cochrane Village, Guapo.' 

But the Crown Colony system was seen at its worst in the field of 
labour relations. 

The Crown Colony Legislature, before the addition of the minority 
of elected members, had in 1920 provided by law for the establish- 
ment of an Industrial Court. The President and members were to be 
appointed by the Governor, some - including the President -to be 
'independent persons', some to represent the employers, and some to 
represent the workers. The President was appointed but no Court was 
established. So the President never functioned and the Ordinance 
remained inoperative right down to 1937. As the 1937 Commission 
wrote: 'It is clear to us that at no time has the Industrial Court 
Ordinance been regarded as a serious factor in the Colony's industrial 

The Trade Union Ordinance of 1932 contained no provisions safe- 
guarding the rigfct for peaceful picketing or giving unions immunity 
against action in tort. Accordingly the Trinidad Working Men's 
Association, which had two branches operating as Trade Unions, the 
Railway Union and the Stevedores Union, refused to register as a 
Trade Union. When the Commission of 1937 arrived in Trinidad, there 
were only two Trade Unions registered - the Federated Workers' 
Trade Union and the Amalgamated Building and Woodworkers' 
Union. After its arrival two other Unions were registered, the Oil- 
field Workers' Trade Union and the All Trinidad Sugar Estates and 
Factories Workers* Trade Union. 

In April 1935, in pursuance of the International Labour Conven- 
tion on minimum wage fixing machinery, the Labour (Minimum 
Wage) Ordinance was passed in Trinidad. It was only an enabling 
Ordinance and up to 1937 no action had been taken under it. 

The Workmen's Compensation Ordinance in force in 1937 did not 
apply to agricultural workers, except those employed in connection 
with any engine or machine worked by mechanical power. The 
original intention to cover all agricultural workers was abandoned 
on the representation of the Agricultural Society of Trinidad and 
Tobago that this would impose a heavy burden on large numbers of 
peasant proprietors. 

In November 1935, the Secretary of State for the Colonies addressed 
a circular despatch to all Colonial Governments regarding the crea- 


tion of Labour Departments. The Government of Trinidad and 
Tobago took no action on this despatch, and sent no reply at all until 
after the 1937 disturbances. 

This was the background to the disturbances of 1937. On the one 
hand, there was the expansion of the oil industry and the sugar in- 
dustry combined with depression or depressing prospects in other 
branches of agriculture. On the other hand there was an explosive 
social situation arising out of the discontent of the workers who had 
no legitimate means of expressing their grievances, who had no legal 
protection for ordinary trade union activities, and who found them- 
selves, especially in agriculture, with the removal of the legal obliga- 
tions of the employer during slavery and indenture, dependent solely 
upon the goodwill of the employer. As the Commission of 1937 wrote: 

"In the absence of any means of collective bargaining, the 
measure of the labourer's well-being and contentment depended 
upon the manner in which that goodwill was exercised. While, as 
we have indicated above, it is true that there are today employers 
who are giving a lead in the adoption of a more enlightened policy, 
the fact remains that the present condition of a large section of 
agricultural workers justifies the view that many managements 
display a surprising indifference to the welfare of their labour.' 

This general condemnation applied not only to sugar but also to 
oil where the oilfield workers had the special grievances of the 'Red 
Book' and the triplicate 'discharge ticket' used by Trinidad Lease- 
holds, both of which were regarded by the workers as instruments 
designed to facilitate 'blackmailing* procedure. There was further 
the marked hostility to the employment of South African staff on the 
oilfields. But the workers had no means of bargaining for better con- 
ditions or even of expressing their point of view. The 1937 Commis- 
sion emphasised: 

The advent of the oil industry has without doubt been a disturb- 
ing factor in the economic and social life of the Colony, but in no 
sphere is the effect more pronounced than in that of agricultural 
labour. At the same time, labour in this new field of industry has 
been as little equipped as labour in the agricultural areas with the 
means of articulating grievances, or of discussing, through recog- 
nized machinery of collective bargaining, matters relating to its 
terms and conditions of employment. 

'Among many other matters complained of were alleged unfair 
discrimination between white and coloured employees, inadequate 
ambulance provision, lack of a satisfactory apprenticeship system 
for young workers, excessive fines, and so on: all matters making 
their contribution to the sum of discontent, but which in industry 
in Great Britain would, in so far as they had any substance, have 
found ready and early adjustment by friendly collaboration between 
the men's representatives and the management. 


'Unfortunately, though there seems to be some evidence since 
the disturbances of a more enlightened outlook, it can safely be 
said that prior to the outbreak employers generally had been slow 
to realize the importance of the development of machinery for con- 
ciliation or collective bargaining on modern lines, and that, indeed, 
their attitude had been the reverse of encouraging/ 

The oilfield workers in particular were very concerned with the 
rise in cost of living; by April 1937, the cost of living in Fyzabad and 
surrounding areas had increased by 17 per cent over the 1935 figures. 
The oil companies claimed that there was no demand for wage in- 
creases. The 1937 Commission repudiated this alibi: 

'We are not impressed by the statement made by the employers 
in the course of our inquiry that there was no general demand for 
a wage increase. Where no organized machinery existed for collec- 
tive representations and joint discussion, what the work-people were 
thinking could only find expression by individual complaints, and 
as those were not likely to be too sympathetically received, the num- 
ber in fact put forward cannot be regarded as a safe indication of 
the measure of discontent . . . 

*Had there existed in the oilfields and elsewhere organised means 
of collective bargaining through which the claims or grievances of 
the workpeople could have found ample means of expression, there 
can be little doubt but that the disturbances which subsequently 
arose might have been avoided.* 

All this explains not only the violence of the eruption but its wide- 
spread nature. The 1937 disturbances were a close approximation to 
a general strike. They began in Fyzabad on June 19, 1937, when the 
police with the general contempt for public opinion which we have 
already noticed in the Carnival disturbances of 1881, the Hosea riots 
of 1884, and the Water Riots of 1903, attempted to arrest the leader 
of the oil workers, Uriah Butler, originally from Grenada. The police 
had a warrant for Butler's arrest, but no Government responsible to 
the people or sensitive to public reaction would ever have authorised 
the arrest of a popular leader when he was addressing a meeting in 
the very centre of the disturbed area. 

Butler's emergence emphasised that working class leadership had 
passed from the hands of Cipriani and Port-of-Spain. A former 
employee of the oilfields, who had been made permanently lame as a 
result of an accident on the job, Butler was the emotional mass leader 
crying out for action. He had been expelled in 1936 from the Trinidad 
Labour Party, whereupon he had formed his own party, the British 
Empire Workers and Citizens Home Rule Party. He claimed to have 
100 paying members and 900 others at the time of the disturbances. 
The disturbances of 1937 arose out of his threat to stage a sit-down 
strike on the oilfields. 

The day of the strike passed off peacefully enough until the police 
tried to arrest Butler when he was addressing a meeting in Fyzabad. 


Butler asked the Police Officer to read the warrant. Whilst it was being 
read Butler asked the crowd whether they were going to allow the 
police to arrest him. The crowd replied 'No, they can't take you,' and 
rushed the police. Butler got away, and a plainclothes policeman, 
Corporal King, who followed him in an attempt to arrest him, was 
set upon by the crowd and compelled to seek refuge in a shop. Jump- 
ing from the shop window, he broke his leg, and whilst he lay upon 
the ground he was beaten, oil was poured upon him, and he was burnt 
to death. A Police Inspector was also shot. Thereupon the Trinidad 
Light Horse, a mechanised volunteer unit in San Fernando, was 
mobilised and the Governor telegraphed to the Commander-in-Chief 
in Bermuda for the despatch of a cruiser. 

Thereafter the disturbances spread to Point Fortin, to Usine Ste 
Madeleine, to San Fernando, to Penal, to Port-of -Spain, to Rio Claro, 
and to Dinsley Village; as a result of rumours of disturbances in 
Tobago, a warship proceeded to that Island and scattered leaflets from 
its seaplane. The Port-of -Spain workers attempted to hold up the 
departure of a train to San Fernando containing a large supply of 
rifles and ammunition. The Governor sent for a second cruiser, and 
the H.MS. Ajax and HM.S. Exeter arrived in Trinidad on the 22nd 
and 23rd June. The Government had at its disposal a total of 2,200 
men, including Police, Special Police, and Volunteers, some of whom 
had machine guns. In addition Navy reinforcements supplied 210 

Many persons were arrested, though Butler himself evaded the net. 
A reward of $500 was offered for information leading to his arrest. 
It speaks volumes for the unity of the people of Trinidad and Tobago 
and the loyalty to Butler that no one volunteered to claim the reward, 
and Butler himself was arrested only when he came out of hiding on 
the basis of a promise from the Government that he would be free 
to give evidence before the 1937 Commission. It was a united front 
of all the workers in the colony, irrespective of occupation and 
irrespective of race. 

The Government of the colony appointed on June 26 a Mediation 
Committee to receive representations from all concerned and to make 
recommendations to the Governor. A glaring commentary on the 
state of industrial relations at the time was the proposal of the oil com- 
panies, with the approval of their Head Offices in London, that the 
Government and the oil companies should agree on terms and present 
them to the workers. The Mediation Committee refused to agree to 
this procedure, but the procedure ultimately adopted by the Govern- 
ment was not much of an improvement on the oil companies* 
proposals. This was the notice published by the Governor on July 5, 
by which time most of the workers had returned to work : 

The Oilfields. 

*It is proposed to adopt the following procedure for the purpose 
of settling outstanding questions in the oilfields. 


'The managements will discuss with representatives of the workers 
any representations which the latter may wish to make. 

The managements will thereafter confer among themselves and 
will then make to their workers a pronouncement of the steps 
proposed by them to meet the representations which have been made 
by the workers. 

'Any differences thereafter outstanding may be referred either 
by the employers or by the workers to the Committee of the Execu- 
tive Council which has been appointed by the Governor for the 

'Either the employers or the workers may invite the assistance 
of the Committee at any period of the negotiations. 


Butler had become a national hero, and Trinidad and Tobago had 
received a new political leader. But the war generally and Butler's 
internment interfered with his freedom of action, and his place was 
taken by his lieutenant, Rienzi, who split sharply with Cipriani on the 
attitude to Butler and the significance of June 19 in the history of the 
workers of Trinidad and Tobago. The real problem, however, was 
that Butler proved inadequate to the task either of forming a political 
party or of organising the oilfield workers, and whilst his popularity 
was undoubted and was fully deserved, and whilst he never swerved 
in his demand for self-government for Trinidad and Tobago, he 
proved as inadequate as Cipriani had proved before him in the sense 
of mobilising the mass movement that he had helped to develop and 
guiding it along the inevitable organisational channels for the capture 
of political power and for the use of that power when it had 
been captured. His Election Manifesto issued for the General Elec- 
tions of 1946, which were the first to be held on the basis of universal 
suffrage, gives a clear picture both of the strength and of the weak- 
nesses of the man, both of the strength of the mass movement and its 
problem of leadership. 

'Comrades, . . . 

*On this very great and glorious date in the history of our struggle 
for the liberation of the land from the Spoiler, the Oppressor and 
the Exploiter of our people, I, as Commander-in-Chief of Trini- 
dad's Great Army of Liberation, salute you and your immortal 
deeds of valour, service and sacrifice on the battle fields of nine 
years ago. Nine years ago today, together we faced an enemy with 
all the Imperial might and military power of Imperial Britain behind 
him. Then, as now, we had nothing but our great faith and confi- 
dence in God, and in the Tightness and justice of our cause. Then, 
as now, we were denied elementary human rights and were prepared 
to die fighting for these rights, then as now we looked to heaven 
as the great Arsenal of all those who have laboured and still con- 
tinue to labour for the rich who have kept back by fraud their hire. 


The Workers of the Colony for the past few months have been 
counselled to clear the decks and to stand by for action to win a 
fairer share of the very great wealth they create by the sweat of their 
brows, action to ensure for all Workers everywhere in the Colony 
better living and working conditions. The time for such action has 
quite definitely arrived. To those who do not think so, I beg to 
submit the following for their considerations : 
c l. Every day whole bunches of workers are being reduced to 
give one man work that was formerly done by five or six men with 
the result that the Crown Colony Employers . . . Created Army of 
Sufferers (unemployed workers not in receipt of a dole) pledged 
by Churchill and the late Pres. Roosevelt to enjoy freedom from 
want now suffer untold misery and want. 2. More work and less 
pay seems to be the order of the day in the ranks of the enemy. 
3. Even now plans are about complete for the cutting down 
of wages, the removal of the war bonus which in our view should 
be left just where it is for ten years or until rice, flour, salt fish, 
pork, cooking oil, Milk, Sugar, etc., return to prewar prices, which- 
ever is the shortest period. In these great and trying circumstances 
I am to order you to stand firm and await the results of new 
demands that shall, before election day (which is comparatively 
speaking of little concern to Uriah Butler while the many hundreds 
of frail Indian women are given impossible tasks which take four 
and five days to perform) on the sugar fields of the colony with 
impossible rates per task (40 & 50c.) be made on the employees of 
Oilfield, Sugar Estate, Cocoa Estate, Stevedore and Waterfront 
labour, plus Shop, Store and Grocery labour with special serious 
demands for Bungalow, Parlour, Government and private Bus 
Service Company Labour not forgetting Hospital, Railway, Housing 
and Planning (where Gomes made a mess of things) and every 
other known type of labour in the colony of Trinidad and Tobago 
to ensure for each and every one of these a fuller, better, brighter 
and a more abundant life of progress, happiness and prosperity . . . 
And, as your Commander-in-Chief under God, I shall not hesitate 
to take action, Constitutional action, to win for our country and 
its people the same rights and the same privileges enjoyed by the 
Workers and Citizens of Great Britain itself. 

'May the next Anniversary of our historic June Revolution (from 
which date we date the New and ever-growing interest now taken 
in our General condition by the Government and the people of 
Great Britain) find our country still under the Union Jack but 
recognised and treated by Imperial Britain as the equal of Canada, 
Australia, New Zealand, South Africa (whom we fought to bring 
under the Union Jack) and all the other self-governing portions 
of the British Empire. 

The zeal of the Lord God of Host ... the only giver of Victory 
-and our United Strength and Indomitable Spirit will perform it. 


Butler himself was defeated in the 1946 Elections, where, perhaps 
stupidly, he decided to contest a seat in Port-of -Spain. He had to wait 
until the 1950 Elections to achieve his ambition to represent his Party 
and his country in the Legislative Council. By that time, by a species 
of chicanery which the Constitution permitted, the leader of the party 
who won a majority of the elected seats was kept out of the power 
which rightly belonged to him by a combination of his elected 
opponents and the nominated and official members who then formed 
part of the Legislative Council Thus instead of the first Party Govern- 
ment in Trinidad and Tobago, which might have failed but also might 
well have succeeded, Trinidad and Tobago, for six long years from 
1950 to 1956 had to tolerate a coalition government of five individuals 
with no Party affiliations or no Party programme, portraying the 
notorious individualism of the Trinidad character and the Trinidad 
society in its worst possible light. 

By the time that Butler's light was dimmed in 1946, another political 
figure appeared on the Trinidad and Tobago scene in the movement 
towards self-government. He was Dr Patrick Solomon, a physician in 
private practice, who had helped to form with a Grenada colleague, 
Dr David Pitt, the West Indian National Party, an inter-racial Party, 
which had achieved some success in the 1946 Elections. The West 
Indian National Party however failed to curb the individualism of 
its members, and never really functioned as a Party. Its outstanding 
and most dynamic figure was Dr Solomon, who later formed the 
Caribbean Socialist Party, which had even less success than the West 
Indian National Party. 

The enduring contribution of these two parties was Dr Solomon's 
Minority Report on Constitution Reform in 1948. Differing sharply 
and fundamentally from the innocuous and wishy-washy report of 
the Constitution Reform Committee which had been appointed with 
Sir Lennox O'Reilly as Chairman, Dr Solomon produced what will 
always remain a decisive document in the political and constitutional 
history of Trinidad and Tobago. 

Dr Solomon attacked first the composition of the Committee. He 
wrote as follows: 

*It would have been too much to hope for the deliberate appoint- 
ment of a progressive assembly to draft the new constitution and, 
in point of fact, most people would have been satisfied with a repre- 
sentative one; but the official charged with the responsibility of 
selecting persons for this important task seems to have disposed of 
his task quite summarily, by the simple expedient of choosing the 
unofficial members of Legislative Council, adding some diehards 
from the old Franchise Committee and rounding off the whole by 
the addition of a few persons chosen at random from among those 
whose names occasionally appear in the press. 

'There was no attempt to ensure that public bodies or active 
groups of the Colony were represented, an ommission which was 


bound to result in a general dissatisfaction with the personnel of 
the Committee, as well as with its recommendations. It is purely 
by accident that any trade unionists gained membership on this 
Committee, though the very nature of the trade union movement 
made such a choice abundantly obvious. The same applies to 
political parties. Cultural groups, Literary and Debating Societies, 
Young People's Clubs, the Co-operative Movement, the Youth 
Council and the Municipalities were all similarly ignored. Worst 
of all, the County Councils, which are the most democratically 
elected public bodies in the country, were given no opportunity, 
once they had come into being, to share in the discussions surround- 
ing so very important a matter as a new constitution for the Colony.' 

In the second place Dr Solomon attacked the findings of the 
Majority Report as unreasonable and illogical. He refused to accept 
the proposal that the Governor should preside over the Executive 
Council with a casting vote, and that the Executive Council should 
include three ex-officio members and three nominated members 
elected by the Legislative Council, or the proposal that the Governor 
* should appoint a Leader of the Executive Council chosen from those 
members who were not ex-officio members. He poured scorn on the 
proposal that members of the Executive Council should be 'associated' 
with administration. Dr Solomon wrote: 

'There is no boldness of outlook, no freedom of thought, no sign 
of individuality in any of these recommendations. The desire has 
been, as far as possible, to base their ideas on the Jamaican con- 
stitution, without pausing to consider whether the conditions which 
obtain in Trinidad today are identical with those which obtained 
in Jamaica in 1944, or even whether the quasi-ministerial system 
has indeed proved an unqualified success in Jamaica. The recom- 
mendations, therefore, are merely negative; the one positive thought 
that again emerges is the wish at all times to give favoured treat- 
ment to the nominated elements in that, while it has been made 
compulsory for the legislature to elect 3 of 6 nominated members 
to the Executive, it is not similarly compulsory that these persons, 
once elected, should hold portfolios and make the necessary sacri- 
fices of time and energy which the elected members are called upon 
to bear. The fact that there are people willing to be on the "inside" 
without the corresponding willingness to shoulder the burden of 
work usually associated with the inside position, is in itself the 
strongest condemnation of the system which protects the privileged 
position of such people. 

'The allocation of portfolios by the Governor in consultation 
with the Leader of the Executive emphasises the anomaly of the 
Governor's position. If it is intended that the selections should 
actually be made by the Leader of the Executive and endorsed by 
the Governor as His Majesty's representative, then we must be 
prepared to accept the position that the Leader of the Executive 


is, in effect, the Prime Minister and should preside over all meet- 
ings of the Cabinet. 

*A Prime Minister, however, in a country without responsibility 
is like a king without a throne. If on the other hand we are 
to assume that the Governor makes the selection, or that, in any 
event, he has the final say, one wonders just what is the purpose 
of appointing a Leader of the Executive. This playing with high- 
sounding names might be suitable enough for parlour games, but 
is certainly out of place in the responsible business of framing a 
constitution for the Colony. 

'It is further recommended here that, except under certain 
circumstances, the Governor and he alone should have the authority 
to summon the Executive. To make such a body the principal instru- 
ment of policy and ordain at the same time that it should be 
summoned to business only at the behest of the Governor, is but 
another of the ridiculous contradictions which face us at every turn 
in the recommendations of this committee. Apart from the fact 
that this is a matter which should be covered by the Standing Orders 
and not embodied in the Constitution at all, it further emphasises 
the desire that the bulk of power should, in fact, still reside in the 
hands of the Governor, making the Prime Minister merely a name 
-to be written in small letters -and the quasi-ministers something 
less than figure-heads. The whole constitution, in fact, is but an 
empty mockery, and, if accepted by the people without demur, 
would certainly brand them as being totally unfit for responsibility 
of any kind.' 

Dr Solomon further opposed the Committee's proposal to elect a 
Speaker from outside of the House and to give him a casting vote. 
In one of his finest passages he attacked the continuation of the 
nominated system, as follows: 

The insistence on the retention of the nominated system cannot 
be justified on any ground whatever. Several arguments were 
brought forward by those who oppose this point of view. It was 
stated that the nominated elements are the ones who made the finest 
speeches recorded in Hansard; that the nominated elements con- 
sisted of people of sterling worth and ripe experience in important 
matters, who would be of extreme value to the Council in its 
deliberations; that in the absence of the nominated system, certain 
important interests, which have a right to be represented would 
never gain representation by the elected route; that the desire of 
those who, for years, had been excluded from representation is to 
exclude, in their turn, those who for years had occupied privileged 
positions on the Council; that Adult Suffrage was a failure and that 
the only counter to the excesses which would be practised by the 
people's elected representatives is a solid block of the saner elements 
of society. These arguments condemn themselves by their very 
flimsiness. The duty of a legislator is not so much to dot his i's and 


cross his t's as to bring to bear on the deliberations of the House 
the point of view of the people he represents; and while history 
will make scant reference to the polished phrases of the otherwise 
useless scholar, real cognisance will be taken of those who, by their 
sincerity of purpose and honesty of intentions help to lay the 
foundation of a better community. Again while we do not deny 
the undoubted talent and ability of these elements of the community 
usually associated with nomination on the Council, we do not at 
all agree that they are the only talented people to be found; and 
even where the elected member has proved to be of inferior ability 
to his nominated counterpart, his obviously less selfish perspective, 
his genuine sincerity of purpose and the disciplinary action of the 
vote, are collectively a guarantee of more satisfactory service to 
the community as a whole. The problem as regards the nominated 
members is not whether they lack talent but rather in whose interest 
they will utiUse that talent.' 

Dr Solomon summarised his own proposals as follows : 

'Confident in the knowledge that the people both need and desire 
Responsible Government, I now make the following recommenda- 
tions, with regard to a new Constitution for Trinidad and Tobago, 
for the consideration of His Majesty's Principal Secretary of State 
for the colonies: 
'1. A fully elected single-chamber Legislature of 25 members, 

elected on the basis of adult suffrage as at present. 
*2. Representation to be on a population basis of approximately 
1-20,000 and a committee to be appointed to determine the 
precise boundaries of the electoral districts, special considera- 
tion being given to Tobago, the Borough of Arima, San 
Fernando and the Eastern Counties. 

It is here recommended that the Committee be requested 
to provide a report within 30 days and, in order to avoid 
interminable delays, that it be given executive powers within 
its terms of reference. The Census Officer and the Electoral 
Officer should both be members of this Committee which 
should not exceed three persons, but should have powers of 
'3. (a) A speaker to be elected by and from the House and 

removable on a vote of no-confidence, 
(b) The Speaker to have a casting vote only. 

'4. An Executive of at least nine members elected by the Legislature 
from among its members, the Executive to be the principal 
instrument of policy, and the Governor to be obligated to 
act on its advice in all internal matters. 

(I consider that although the Executive cannot expect to 
control foreign policy, it ought nevertheless to be consulted 
on external affairs and especially in the matter of inter- 
Caribbean relationships.) 


4 5. The members of the Executive to have full ministerial responsi- 
bility for specific Departments of State; the Executive or 
Cabinet to be collectively responsible to the Legislature, by 
which it should be removable on a vote of no-confidence. 

'6. Where there is a majority party in the Legislature, the leader 
of that party to become the Prime Minister; where there is 
no majority party the Prime Minister to be elected by the 

'7. The Prime Minister to allocate portfolios and the Governor to 
appoint the ministers on his advice. 

*8. Where national expediency demands it, the Prime Minister to 
be empowered to create new ministries. 

'9. The Prime Minister to preside at all Cabinet meetings, 

This memorable document was concluded with a peroration which 
was the finest statement of the nationalist aspirations up to that time 
and which will always find a place in the documentary history of the 
people of Trinidad and Tobago. The peroration reads as follows: 

'Such is the Constitution that I believe to be best suited to the 
needs of the people of this country; and in this connection I feel 
that Trinidad is but blazing the trail along which the other Carib- 
bean territories must follow. This is the type of constitution at which 
each must aim if federation of the West Indies is to become a work- 
able practical reality and not a tragic farce. 

'The keynote is "responsibility" which every people must shoulder 
sooner or later. That we shall make mistakes, I have no doubt; 
but we claim that we should be free to make those mistakes; that 
our mistakes will be no worse than those of other peoples in similar 
circumstances -and need not necessarily be as bad -and in any 
event would be less costly than those of past administrations in this 


'Under such a constitution the broad masses of the people can 
at last realise that this country is their country and that they have 
an obligation to contribute to its welfare; that they have the oppor- 
tunity freely to aid in its economic recovery without the fear of 
exploitation; and that ultimately, their country, by their efforts, 
will make its own particular contribution to the sum total of world 
progress and of human happiness/ 


The Road to Independence 

Cipriani, Butler, Solomon - these three will go down in our history 
as the great trinity in our movement for self-government. Cipriani 
gave dignity to the barefooted man. Butler brought the inarticulate 
masses on a national scale on to the political stage. Solomon intro- 
duced the intellectual element and dignified the constitution reform 
movement by placing it squarely in its world democratic context. All 
three were defeated. Cipriani ended up justifying World War II and 
opposing Butler. Butler ended up in sonorous platitudes, not all of 
them intelligible, in the Legislative Council, in which he lost his seat 
in the 1961 Elections. Solomon was repudiated by a Port-of-Spain 
Constituency in the 1950 Elections. Cipriani, Butler and Solomon 
ended up in the almost unbelievable fiasco of the first Ministerial 
system under the 1950 Constitution. Cipriani, Butler and Solomon 
laboured, each in his own way in the vineyard, only to produce the 
barren fruit of Albert Gomes. 

This was the depressing situation in Trinidad and in Tobago when 
in January 1956 the political scene was revitalised with the formation 
of a new political party, the People's National Movement, with Learie 
Constantine as Chairman, and Dr Eric Williams as Political Leader. 
Dr Patrick Solomon, persuaded to come out of retirement, was sub- 
sequently elected Deputy Political Leader. The People's National 
Movement won 13 of 24 seats in the Elections of September 24, 1956, 
and became the first Party Government in Trinidad and Tobago. They 
followed this up by winning 20 out of 30 seats in the General Elec- 
tions of December 4, 1961. 

The People's National Movement represented the first manifesta- 
tion of Party politics in Trinidad and Tobago on a national scale. For 
the first time the electorate of Trinidad and Tobago were presented 
with a Party which had a written Constitution. The Constitution pro- 
vided for the setting up of Party Groups all over the country with a 
line of communication leading up to Constituency Groups, the 
General Council of the Party, and ultimately the Annual Convention. 
Breaking sharply away from precedents in other countries, the People's 
National Movement Constitution provided for a separation of the poli- 
tical leadership from the adminstrative control of the Party, In the 
almost indecent indiscipline which characterised political life in Trini- 
dad and Tobago, and drawing largely on the bitter experience of its 
predecessors, the People's National Movement placed great emphasis 
on the promotion and maintenance of discipline within the Party. 
And for the first time in the history of the country, a political party 
prescribed in its Constitution the procedure for the selection of its 



candidates not only in General Elections, but in all elections in the 

Thus fortified with its Constitution, the People's National Move- 
ment made the first plank in its platform the political education of 
the people. It organised what has now become famous in many parts 
of the world, the University of Woodford Square, with constituent 
colleges in most of the principal centres of population in the country. 
The political education dispensed to the population in these centres 
of political learning was of a high order and concentrated from the 
outset on placing Trinidad and Tobago within the current of the great 
international movements for democracy and self-government. The 
electorate of the country was able to see and understand its problems 
in the context of the ancient Athenian democracy or the federal 
systems of the United States and Switzerland, in the context of the 
great anti-colonial movements of Nehru and Nkrumah, and in the con- 
text of the long and depressing history of colonialism in Trinidad and 
Tobago and the West Indies. The voter in Trinidad and Tobago was 
quite suddenly invested with a dignity for which he was obviously, 
by his response, well-fitted. 

The second plank in the platform of the People's National Move- 
ment was Nationhood. From the very outset, in unambiguous 
language, the Party stated its clear and uncompromising stand on self- 
government and independence - independence within a federation 
of the British Caribbean, but if that was not attainable, independence 
outside the Federation. There was never at any time any misunder- 
standing on the part of any of the voters in Trinidad and Tobago as 
to the repudiation by the People's National Movement of the consti- 
tution inflicted on the country by the Colonial Office in 1956 or the 
constitution agreed to by West Indian representatives with the bless- 
ing of the Colonial Office in respect of Federation at the London Con- 
ference in February 1956. 

The third plank in the platform of the People's National Move- 
ment was morality in public affairs, the emphasis on honesty and 
integrity among Party members and their representatives in the elected 
Assemblies, the elimination of graft and discrimination in public life 
and in public appointments. This constituted a veritable revolution 
in a country circumstanced as Trinidad and Tobago had been under 
the Crown Colony system. 

One of the outstanding achievements of the People's National 
Movement was the emancipation of the women of the country and 
their incorporation with equal rights on an equal footing with men in 
the political life of the country. The Movement stood from the out- 
set for inter-racialism and the reduction of racial tension in the com- 
munity, its flag, black, brown, yellow and white, symbolising the 
union of the principal ethnic groups which had suffered under 
colonialism and which had at various times fought for constitution 

When in July 1962 over 300 delegates of the People's National 


Movement drawn from all parts of the country assembled in Special 
Convention to revise the Party constitution in accordance with the 
requirements of the Constitution itself, and spent seven days on this 
exercise to which most serious study had been given for well over 18 
months by a variety of representatives of the Party at different levels, 
that more than anything else constituted a dramatic manifestation of 
the extent to which in 1956 the Movement had established the system 
of party politics in the traditional land of unrestrained and undisci- 
plined individualism. 

In its six years of power the government of the People's National 
Movement has also been able to satisfy the aspirations of so many 
people in the country for such a long period of time and virtually to 
revolutionise the society and the economy. 

Its first achievement was the abolition of the Crown Colony system. 
On the very morrow of its victory in the 1956 Elections, the Colonial 
Office, in accordance with precedents previously set in Malaya and 
Singapore, agreed to its request to modify drastically the system of 
nomination by including among the five nominated members two 
People's National Movement members selected by the leader of the 
Party who had become Chief Minister. This was followed in 1959 by 
the introduction of the Cabinet system, under which the Premier (the 
new title of the Chief Minister) presided over the Cabinet (the new 
title of the Executive Council), the Governor ceased to be a member 
of the Cabinet, and the ex-officio members, retained for the sake of 
continuity and on the basis of their experience, were not allowed the 
right to vote. The next step was full internal self-government attained 
after the General Elections of December 1961. Old Joseph Chamber- 
lain must have turned in his grave. Fifty-eight years after his boast 
that the Crown colony system was the only form of government suited 
to Trinidad, Trinidad and Tobago assumed absolute and untram- 
melled control of its internal affairs. This was associated with a 
dramatic reversal of the Crown Colony pattern of Legislature. In 
accordance with the election pledges of the People's National Move- 
ment in 1956, a bicameral legislature was introduced, the Lower 
House fully elected and the Upper House fully nominated. 

The second achievement of the new Government was the introduc- 
tion of the concept and techniques of planning in the national life. 
Before the People's National. Movement there had been a five-year 
plan, which was nothing more than a collation of the individual wishes 
of individual Ministers. Within one year of assuming control of the 
Government, the new Government had ready for general discussion 
a five-year plan of the order of $191 million, providing for the exten- 
sion of roads, the increase in hospital accommodation, the construction 
of new schools, the expansion of the Airport, the development of 
neglected and maligned Tobago, the construction and encouragement 
of hotels, the organisation of new markets, the expansion of electricity, 
the modernising of the sanitation system, and a vastly extended water 


Subsequent revisions raised the cost of the five-year programme 
to $248 million. Now in its final year, the success of the programme 
has been obvious to all. It greatest achievement has been that it has 
been financed to the extent of 98^ per cent from purely local 
resources, surplus revenues or local loans, without assistance from 
outside. New factories which have grown up in the last five years have 
testified to the success of the Industrial Development Corporation 
established in 1958. The small fanner, bypassed and despised in the 
age of colonialism, received aids and subsidies which he had never 
received before. The fishing industry, neglected and ignored under 
previous governments, received special attention. The New Port-of- 
Spain Town Hall, replacing the one destroyed by fire in 1948, the 
new and imposing Hilton Hotel, elegant and commodious new blocks 
at the Port-of -Spain Hospital, the Navet Dam, the Mausica Teachers 
College, the John S. Donaldson Technical Institute, a large number of 
new Primary and Secondary Schools, the introduction of free 
secondary education, the paving of the Tobago runway, the new Ter- 
minal Building at Piarco, two new ships for the Tobago service, street 
lights and village lights in many communities, a vast sewerage scheme 
under way, an extensive north coast road under construction in 
Tobago, the extension of the Trinidad North Coast Road from 
Maracas Bay to Las Cuevas Bay- the entire population has been able 
to see, to hear, to touch and to feel these and kindred developments, 
and to understand that where Spanish colonialism had signally failed 
to develop the country, where British colonialism had signally failed 
to develop the country, Trinidad and Tobago nationalism had been 
able to achieve where the others had not dared to aspire. 

The third major achievement of the years since 1,956 was in the 
field of finance. The income tax system was revised by the introduc- 
tion of the Pay-as-you-earn system. Local savings were tapped as 
never before, not for war loans or depression loans to the British 
Government, but for the development of local resources. A Central 
Bank now in process of formation will be the apex of the banking 
structure. With the establishment of a Minister of Finance by the 
new Government in October 1956, financial autonomy was achieved 
and the people of Trinidad and Tobago, through their elected repre- 
sentatives, assumed responsibility for their financial affairs on which 
they had been formerly dependent on the approval of the Colonial 

In respect of relations of Church and State in the field of education, 
the new Government signed a Concordat with the denominations 
ensuring the denominational character of the schools, incorporating 
the denominational schools into the Government' s policy of free 
secondary education, and, subject to the overriding authority of 
the Public Service Commission, giving assurance to the denomina- 
tions in respect of the appointment, transfer, or dismissal of teachers 
in denominational schools considered by the denominations unsuitable 
on grounds of faith or morals. 


The Government purchased the telephone system from a private 
Company. It also purchased British West Indian Airways from the 
British Overseas Airways Corporation to prevent its liquidation and 
the retrenchment of several hundred workers that that would have 
entailed, to ensure that the vital field of air transport would not fall 
entirely into foreign hands, and to preserve for the West Indian people 
the rights and privileges which had accrued to them from British West 
Indian Airways. British West Indian Airways is conceived by the 
Government of Trinidad and Tobago as a National Carrier for the 
West Indian area as a whole, and steps are now being taken to imple- 
ment this policy. 

In accordance with its Election Manifesto pledges of September 
1956, the new Government also reformed drastically the electoral 
procedure. The two principal innovations, under which the General 
Elections of 1961 were contested, were the introduction of personal 
permanent registration, involving an Identification Card carrying 
photograph, signature, and basic particulars of the voter, and the use 
of the Voting Machine. 

A fundamental reorganisation of the Public Service was initiated in 
1959, based principally on the necessity for the integration of Mini- 
stries and Departments of Government. A complete reappraisal of 
existing classifications with the consequent readjustment of salary 
grades and salary scales is now being made. 

New legislation in the past five years has drastically changed some 
of the essential features of the old colonial regime. The cane farmers 
of the society have been incorporated and given a recognised place 
in the sugar industry. Security of tenure has been provided for small 
fanners, and provision made for a number of agricultural tribunals 
to settle disputes. Preliminary steps have been taken for the establish- 
ment of a Public Utilities Commission to fix rates for all essential 
public utilities. The Government has taken steps to rationalise and 
improve the system of public transport by bus. Town planning legisla- 
tion has given the Government the necessary powers to deal with the 
better use of land and protect the interests of the citizens from selfish 
individuals in a society becoming increasingly complex. The health 
laws have been drastically revised in respect of doctors, dentists, 
nurses, pharmacists, and private hospitals. A Port Authority has been 
established to replace the Government Department previously res- 
ponsible for port operations. 

The labour movement in the country has been given increasingly 
important responsibilities, and the Government has set the lead in 
the fields of collective bargaining and civilised industrial relations 
procedures. It has encouraged the formation of a Joint Industrial 
Council comprising all the Unions and all the Government employing 
bodies connected with Government daily-paid employees. Boards of 
Enquiry have been set up to deal with the disputes which have arisen 
in a number of basic industries such as asphalt, cement, telephones 
and sugar. 


The increasing control by the elected representatives of the people 
of Trinidad and Tobago over their own affairs and particularly their 
own economic affairs, in anticipation of their control of external affairs 
with Independence, has been nowhere better reflected than in the 
broad scope of the expert advice which the Government has been 
able to make available to the people of Trinidad and Tobago. Experts 
have come from the United States of America in the field of oil, from 
Canada in the field of income tax and legal drafting, from Canada 
and the United States of America in the field of housing, from India 
in the field of planning, from the United Nations in the field of port 
development. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Develop- 
ment has advised on the whole question of electricity expansion in 
connection with a loan of $40 million recently provided by it to the 
Government of Trinidad and Tobago. More recent international con- 
tracts have produced agreements to make available to the Government 
of Trinidad and Tobago experts in the field of vocational education, 
agricultural marketing and water winning and distribution from Israel, 
experts from Switzerland in the field of railway operations, tourist 
promotion, and hotel management. 

The results of this expansion, both physical and psychological, have 
been twofold. In the first place, the political stability and the economic 
potential of Trinidad and Tobago have increasingly been recognised 
as differentiating the country sharply from most of its neighbours. 
This has had the result in the private sector of the economy of large- 
scale private investment principally in oil, where the take-over of Trini- 
dad Leaseholds by Texaco, an American Company, in 1956, with 
the approval of the British Government, has been the principal factor 
in the expansion of the production both of crude oil and of refined 
products- crude oil production averaging 130,000 barrels per day, 
and refined production 305,000 barrels per day. Investment in oil in 
drilling operations, in refining operations, and in by-products such as 
lubricating oils, has formed the largest part of the substantial capital 
investment which has taken place in Trinidad in the past few years. 
It is largely because of oil, and the substantial revenues derived by 
the Government from oil, that the per capita national income of Trini- 
dad and Tobago for 1960 was about $850, and is estimated to have 
increased to approximately $1,000 in 1961, a figure larger than that 
of the vast majority of its Caribbean and South American neighbours, 
and very much larger than that of the majority of the newly indepen- 
dent countries of Africa and Asia. 

The second result of the expansion has already begun to emerge 
in the field of art and culture. A sugar economy, governed from 
abroad, dominated by slave or semi-servile labour, talked and thought 
as we have seen, in terms of slaves and sugar, and was entirely desti- 
tute of learned leisure, liberal and scientific intercourse, and even 
of liberal recreations. No love or appreciation of the arts, nor artistic 
traditions, could develop in such sordid material circumstances, and 
until recently, the young writer or the man who wrote poetry, or the 


painter or the sculptor was regarded as little more than a freak, a 
disappointment to hard-working parents who looked to him, either 
as a professional man who had won a scholarship or as a civil servant, 
to raise the family status and to occupy a higher rung on the social 
ladder than his f ather and grandfather had occupied. 

With the increase of population in recent years, the new confidence 
of the people, and the broadening of their horizons, coupled with the 
relative improvement in material conditions and standards, there has 
been a flowering of the native forms of culture and a marked increase 
in popular interest and appreciation. The calypso and the steelband, 
both products of the underprivileged members of the society, have 
gained a well-deserved reputation for Trinidad and Tobago among 
the folk arts of the world, and the enormous enthusiasm, capacity for 
improvisation, and zest for living which constitute the Trinidad 
Carnival have more and more brought themselves to the attention 
of the outside world. 

Trinidad art, in painting and sculpture, is coming forward, though 
it has not yet begun to achieve anything of the reputation of Mexican 
art or the Haitian primitives. The folk dances and the folk songs are 
being revived and preserved, and there is the nucleus of a native 
theatre, constantly struggling against the harsh criticism of those in 
the society who seek to parade their superior knowledge by continuing 
in the well established colonial tradition of depreciating local efforts 
and disparaging local forms. 

Trinidad and Tobago has as yet produced nothing remotely 
approaching the world-famous poetry of Aime Cesaire of Martinique, 
but in the field of prose writing it has produced two of the outstand- 
ing novelists of the Caribbean of the last decade, Vidia Naipaul and 
Samuel Selvon, both of whom, as Indians, testify to Trinidad's 
achievement in the abolition of the Crown Colony system. They are 
the children of those who, as we have seen, were towards the end of 
the last century not sent to school, of those who were to be found, 
as the saying went, either in the field or in the hospital or in jail, of 
those of whom the sugar planter contemptuously asked in 1925, 'Of 
what use would education be to them if they had it?' Naipaul and 
Selvon write about their own experiences in Trinidad, the streets they 
knew, the people they mixed with, their family customs and traditions; 
NaipauFs novel on the first fruits of universal suffrage and the 
ministerial system, or his novel dealing with the birth of a colonial 
politician -whilst the illustration is Indian, the subject and scope are 
Trinidadian, and they will always remain as outstanding landmarks 
in the political evolution of Trinidad. 

These, broadly speaking, have been the developments in the political, 
economic and social field in the past six years. A political party, a 
relatively new phenomenon in the history of Trinidad and Tobago, 
drawing a considerable measure of mass support, had released the 
latent capacities and pent-up energies of the people of Trinidad and 
Tobago and was leading them inexorably on the road to independence. 


It was inevitable that this political drive and these economic prospects 
would clash with British efforts to establish a federation of the West 
Indies. It was not that the new Government and the new mass move- 
ment were opposed to federation. Quite the opposite. They were both 
in the vanguard of federation. But it was that the British idea of 
Federation was so much behind the times and so redolent of the old 
colonialism, so wedded to the policy of Caribbean consolidation in 
order to facilitate the government of the Caribbean, either directly 
or indirectly, from outside. 

Britain^ concern with federation of the West Indies, fundamentally 
a progressive step and a sound proposition, went back, as we have 
already seen, to the year 1876. But what was involved was nothing 
more than an administrative consolidation of separate governments 
to suit Britain's purposes, particularly in respect of defence. The 
Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Earl of Kimberley, made this 
quite clear to Governor Rawson of Barbados in a despatch on May 1. 

'No one can dispute the advantages, for purposes of defence, of 
union between weak neighbouring communities. Moreover, it 
cannot be expected that the governments of a number of small 
Islands independent of each other should possess the experience 
and information necessary to enable them to deal with questions 
which in times of war or other emergencies may arise with foreign 
powers, and on which there may be no opportunity to refer home 
for instructions. It must be apparent to all the colonists under your 
Government that the Imperial Government may justly call upon 
them to adopt any improvements in their system of administration 
which without prejudicing their local interests may increase the 
efficiency of the Colonial Government in reference to these serious 

The administrative consolidation envisaged was unpretentious and 
ridiculous in the extreme. The specific proposals submitted by the 
Governor to the Assembly of Barbados in 1876, the six points as he 
called them, were as follows: (1) the appointment of the Auditor 
of Barbados as Auditor-General of the Windward Islands; (2) the 
transporting of prisoners between the islands when necessary; (3) the 
admission of lunatics from the other islands into a new asylum in 
Barbados; (4) a federal leper asylum for all the islands; (5) the 
appointment of a Chief Justice of the Windward Islands and the 
centralisation of the judicial system in Barbados; (6) the creation of 
a police force for the Windward Islands. 

Thus federation eighty years ago meant freedom of movement for 
lunatics and prisoners, and the federation of lepers and policemen. 
The Colonial Office alone could find that attractive. 

The only hint of an economic side to federation came from the 
Governor of Barbados who linked federation with freedom of move- 
ment. The Governor said: 


*Our redundant population will find a natural outlet in the 
neighbouring Islands when by a uniform political system, the same 
laws, the same tariff, and constant means of rapid communication, 
the now unoccupied Crown Lands and half -tilled estates will be 
available for their labour, and they can come and go from the 
various islands as readily as they now pass from parish to parish 
in Barbados/ 

Barbados refused to have anything to do with these proposals or 
any other proposals for federation. It wished to have absolutely no- 
thing to do with the smaller territories governed as Crown Colonies, 
which they feared would mean the downgrading of their own political 
status to that of the Crown Colony system; the fear was a legitimate 
one, in view of what had happened to Jamaica a mere ten years before. 
So the Barbados sugar planters made overtures instead for joining 
the Canadian Federation, which they hoped would give them a duty 
free market for their sugar and an outlet for their surplus population. 
Britain, therefore, had to abandon its proposals and, as we have 
indicated, to substitute the smaller federation of Grenada, St Vincent, 
St Lucia and Tobago, which Tobago itself rejected in favour of union 
with Trinidad, thereafter, the British Government maintained an in- 
termittent interest in the subject of federation, an interest which was 
distinguished by an incoherence that stemmed from a total lack of 
policy towards the West Indies; one gets the impression that nobody 
ever had time to sit down and work out some sort of policy, good or 
bad, for the West Indies as a whole. 

In the first place there was complete confusion as to the scope of 
the federation. The British proposals of 1876 involved the federation 
of the Leeward Islands, which then included Dominica, and the Wind- 
ward Islands, which then included Barbados and Tobago. The head- 
quarters of the federation was to be Barbados. In 1893 a commis- 
sioner investigating the affairs of Dominica recommended *an admini- 
strative union of all the British Antilles under one Governor-General.' 
The Royal Commission of 1897 opposed this and limited federation to 
Barbados and the Windward Islands, with Dominica transferred from 
the leeward to the Windward Group. The early years of the twentieth 
century saw proposals by the Administrator of St Vincent for 
a federation of all the territories excluding British Honduras and the 
Bahamas, while Sir Samuel Hoare, later Foreign Secretary of the 
United Kingdom, who had economic interests in British Honduras, 
included both British Honduras and the Bahamas in his proposal for 
the appointment of a single High Commissioner for all the West Indian 
territories. Major Wood was lukewarm in support of a federation and 
limited his proposals to a suggestion that the possibility of a federa- 
tion of Trinidad and the Windward Islands should be explored. 

This was opposed by the Closer Union Commission of 1932, which 
proposed instead a loose federation of the Leeward and Windward 
Islands with a single Governor but with no federal legislative or execu- 


tive councils, and with headquarters in St Lucia. The Royal Co 
sion of 1938, while emphasizing that the federation of the entire 
was the ideal to which policy should be directed, repeated the propa 
of the Closer Union Commission for a federation of the Leeward ai, 
Windward Islands. 

There was a similar confusion as to the necessity or desirability of 
federation. The British Government's proposals of 1876 were based 
on the argument that federation would be more economical and more 
efficient. But the Royal Commission of 1882 limited itself to a recogni- 
tion of the importance of joint consultative action on such matters 
as the civil service, taxation, customs duties, reporting of trade statis- 
tics, administration of justice, telephone and postal communications 
and was very careful to state that this should be done 'without infring- 
ing on the constitutional independence of any one colony.* The Royal 
Commission of 1897 opposed the proposal for a unified West Indian 
Civil Service on the ground that no appreciable evil or inconvenience 
necessarily arose from the existing system, and that no substantial 
economies would be effected by its modification which would not be 
equally possible under the system then existing. Major Wood, how- 
ever, took the view that separation involved excessive overhead charges 
by requiring the full paraphernalia of administrative machinery for 
communities whose population was so small. The Closer Union Com- 
mission recorded that the witnesses that appeared before it made it 
clear that for any federation or closer union to be acceptable it must 
achieve economy in administration, but the Royal Commission of 
1938 condemned as short-sighted policy the rejection of the principle 
of federation merely because in its initial stages it would not secure 
savings on salaries or other administrative expenses. 

This confusion as to the necessity or desirability of federation is 
well illustrated by the question of transportation. As far back as 1860 
a Colonial Office official expressed the view that federation was 
demanded by what he called the 'modern facility of communication' 
available a hundred years ago. The 1897 Commission, on the other 
hand, rejected federation principally because, in its view, the Governor 
General, apart from the waste of time and the physical strain that 
would be involved in the necessary journeys to the different territories, 
would have to be furnished with a special vessel and establishment, 
which would cost a considerable sum, while the task of bringing the 
Federal Council together in order to arrange for its constitution and 
for the conduct of its business would also involve great difficulties. 
Major Wood in 1921 also regarded as the most serious impediment 
to federation the distances separating the colonies and the absence 
of the necessary transportation facilities. He pointed out that Jamaica 
was separated from the Lesser Antilles and British Guiana by a 
journey longer in time than that from England to Jamaica, stressed 
that his mission was made possible only by the fact that a British war- 
ship had been specially detailed for his use, and cited the case of an 
official letter addressed from Trinidad to the officer commanding the 


troops in Jamaica which had taken five and a half months to reach 
its destination. The postal authorities in Jamaica were in those days 
usually compelled to send mails for Trinidad, Barbados and British 
Guiana via England, New York and Halifax. 

Neither the 1897 Commission nor Major Wood stopped to consider 
that distance has not prevented either the political dependence of the 
British Caribbean territories on the United Kingdom or the representa- 
tion of the French West Indies in the Parliament in Paris. Distance 
did not prevent Barbados which objected in 1876 to British Caribbean 
Federation from proposing in 1884 that it should be admitted into 
the Canadian Federation. 

In its federation policy the British Government was faced with the 
opposition of powerful vested interests. The Barbadian planters of 
1876 refused to surrender their ancient constitution under which they 
enjoyed a large measure of self-government. The opposition in later 
years came principally from Trinidad, which was described by the 
Closer Union Commission of 1932 as being unsympathetic to the idea. 

The British Government forced Nova Scotia into the Canadian 
Federation but allowed the ruling class in Barbados and Trinidad to 
get away with their opposition to Caribbean Federation. This was only 
another illustration of its tenderness to the West Indian ruling class. 
The tenderness was particularly evident in Major Wood's report in 
1921. Major Wood was more impressed with the differences between 
the territories than with the similarities. He considered, for example, 
that Barbados with its uninterrupted and unchanged constitution and 
its land and industry almost exclusively in the hands of European 
large proprietors, was, historically, socially and politically, poles 
asunder from the Crown Colonies of St Vincent and St Lucia where 
there was a considerable coloured and Negro peasant proprietary. 
Influenced by the difficulty of obtaining contributions from some 
colonies towards the establishment of what used to be the Imperial 
College of Tropical Agriculture in Trinidad, Major Wood wrote as 

The establishment of West Indian political unity is likely to be 
a plant of slow and tender growth. If any advance in this direction 
is to be achieved, it can only be as a result of a deliberate demand 
of local opinion, springing from the realisation of the advantages 
of co-operation under modern world conditions. Such development 
is likely only to be prejudiced, if ground were ever given for the 
fear that it was being imposed upon reluctant communities from 
without . . ' 

This was the position when in 1932 a conference of West Indian 
leaders was convened in Roseau in Dominica to consider the question 
of federation, in the light of the appointment of the Closer Union 
Commission. All the West Indian islands except Jamaica were in- 
cluded in this conference. The Conference was dominated by Capt. 
Cipriani of Trinidad, There was nothing particularly revolutionary 


about the draft constitution drawn up at this conference, the principal 
features of which were as follows: 

(1) A single chamber legislature comprised of 27 elected and 6 
official members. 

(2) A Federal Executive comprised of the Governor-General, 3 
officials nominated by the Crown, and 6 elected members 
elected by and from the Federal Assembly. 

(3) The Governor-General was to act on the advice of the Federal 
Executive and 'the functions now exercised by the Colonial 
Office in relation to the British West Indies Colonies shall, as 
far as practicable, be transferred' to him. 

(4) 'Reconstitution of Island Legislatures: It is necessary and desk- 
able that in each island the nominated and unofficial element 
should disappear and be replaced by elected members; and 
that the number of elected members should be increased so as 
to provide for a clear elected majority; in case of conflict 
between the Island Government and the Island Legislature in 
any matter of paramount importance the issue to be referred 
to the Governor-General*. 

(5) The qualifications for membership of island legislatures were 
to be a clear annual income of $960, or ownership of real 
property of at least $2,400 clear of all charges and encum- 
brances, or occupation of land of an annual rental value of at 
least $240. 

(6) 'Qualifications of Voters: 

For the time being the question of voters* qualifications shall 
be left to the local Legislatures, it being understood that no 
adult who pays any direct tax shall be deprived of a vote, and 
that any property or income qualification that may be imposed 
shall be sufficiently low to provide for the free expression of 
opinion of all classes, and that adult franchise is the ultimate 
aim of the Federation: The qualifications of voters to be re- 
viewed triennially in each unit with a view to bringing adult 
suffrage gradually into general operation.' 

(7) The establishment of Municipal Councils or Boards in all towns 
or villages, 'with a controlling elective element, wherever 
practicable, the enjoyment of a full measure of municipal 
autonomy by every centre of population being regarded as 
essential to the ultimate realization of Dominion Status.' 

There the matter rested until in 1947 the British Government con- 
vened a conference in Montego Bay in Jamaica of all the West Indian 
Islands, British Guiana and British Honduras to discuss the question 
of a federation of the West Indies. A Standing Closer Association 
Committee was appointed under a British Chairman and with head- 
quarters in Barbados to work out the details of a constitution. The 
Committee was concerned purely with two questions: first, to reduce 
the revenues of the Federal Government - it came up with a ridiculous 
proposition for a revenue of $864,000 most of it to be eaten up by 


the Governor General's establishment. Second, arguing the case 
against economic aid from the United Kingdom. 

A draft Constitution in 1953 was prepared on the basis of the Com- 
mittee's findings and this was modified by an amended Constitution 
in February 1956. Both Constitutions were similar in that they gave 
the Governor General enormous powers. He presided over the Execu- 
tive which included ex-officio members. In 1956 in the month of 
February, the West Indian people were being asked to set up a federa- 
tion in which the Governor General was to have reserve powers in 
the field of defence, foreign relations, international obligations, 
currency, constitutional amendments, imposition of differential duties, 
measures affecting the security of the federation and involving finan- 
cial assistance to the federation from the British Government. Even 
in 1856 nothing worse could have been perpetrated, but in 1856 unlike 
1956 there would have been no West Indian leaders of the various 
territories to draw up and sign the report that was drawn up 
and signed in 1956. 

The Constitutions of 1953 and 1956 were absolutely innocent of 
any economic perspectives. They ran away from the great question 
of customs union and internal free trade and postponed them for five 
years. They ran away from the equally great question of freedom 
of movement among the territories of the federation, and postponed 
that to the time of their reconsideration of the question of free trade. 
They reduced federation to a laughing stock by limiting it to a fixed 
revenue of $9,120,000 derived from a mandatory levy of all the terri- 
tories compounded on considerations based on revenue and popula- 
tion -as a compromise between Jamaica with half the population of 
the area. By this time British Guiana and British Honduras had ceased 
to take part in the exercise. 

The West Indian leaders were not able to agree among themselves 
as to the location of the federal capital. In 1953 they selected Grenada. 
In 1956 they had second thoughts and decided against Grenada. But 
they could not agree on an alternative location. Therefore, they 
decided to ask the British Government to send out a commission of 
three persons to decide on the location of the capital. The commission 
subsequently recommended that the capital should not be located in 
a small island as a matter of principle, and that among the three larger 
territories, the order of merit should be (1) Barbados, (2) Jamaica, 
(3) Trinidad. The commission urged that, under no circumstances, 
should the capital be located in Trinidad, because of the low tone of 
political life in Trinidad at the time, the absence of regular political 
parties, the pronounced individualism of the place, and the racial divi- 
sions between the two major groups in the Island, Negroes and 

This anaemic infant, showing all the conventional signs of malnutri- 
tion, took its bow on the world stage on April 22, 1958. By that time, 
however, the People's National Movement had emerged as the 
governing party in Trinidad and Tobago. The party had always stood 


for federation and had demanded independence for the Federation 
in a period of not more than five years from its inception. It won its 
first victory when it discarded the report of the Capital Site Mission 
into the waste paper basket where it belonged and secured the accept- 
ance of Trinidad as the Capital Site of the Federation, It won 
its second victory over its West Indian colleagues in the Federal party 
of which it was an affiliate member, the West Indian Federal Labour 
Party, when in 1959 it secured acceptance of the proposal that imme- 
diate steps should be taken to convene the conference envisaged in 
the ^1956 Constitution, to revise the Constitution within the five year 
period stipulated and achieve full independence for the Federation. 

At a series of conferences convened by the Federal Government 
between 1959 and early 1961, a sharp division of opinion emerged 
between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. Jamaica wanted a loose 
confederation with limited revenues and limited powers, based on a 
customs union among the territories which excluded significant pro- 
ducts of its own. Jamaica advocated a federal government whose 
revenues were derived from import duties, and which had no powers 
whatsoever over income tax and industrial development. Trinidad 
and Tobago, on the other hand, led the fight for a strong central 
government with full powers to organise and shape the national 
economy, and with adequate revenues to carry out the inescapable 
responsibilities of a new independent State. The Government of Trini- 
dad and Tobago advocated customs union, freedom of movement of 
labour and capital throughout the Federation, a single West Indian 
currency, a Central Bank, and federal powers over income tax and 
industrial development. The concrete proposals of the Government 
of Trinidad and Tobago were outlined in the Economics of Nation- 
hood published in 1959, the only document in over eighty years in 
which the concept of federation was analysed and rationally presented. 
The philosophy underlying the document was contained in the follow- 
ing paragraph: 

These islands have a long history of insularity, even of isolation, 
rooted in the historical development of their economy and trade 
and the difficulties of communications for centuries. No amount 
of subjective, that is to say historical, cultural or other activity of 
the time can be expected to overcome this heritage. Only a powerful 
and centrally directed economic co-ordination and interdependence 
can create the true foundations of a nation. Barbados will not unify 
with St Kitts, or Trinidad with British Guiana, or Jamaica with 
Antigua. They will be knit together only through their common 
allegiance to a Central Government. Anything else will descredit 
the conception of Federation, and in the end leave the islands more 
divided than before'. 

In this conflict between the two philosophies of federation Trinidad 
and Tobago was ready to compromise with Jamaica in respect of con- 
ceding to Jamaica, on the basis of its population, some 4S% of the seats 


in the House of Representatives, to delay customs union for nine 
years, and to impose on the Federal Government a moratorium for 
nine years on the exercise of the power to levy income tax and direct 
industrial development of the region. Even this was unable to reconcile 
the profound differences between the two concepts. When, at the Lan- 
caster House Conference in London in June 1961, the Colonial Office 
and the other Territories sided with Jamaica against Trinidad and 
agreed to a Constitution which gave Jamaica or any other Territory 
a perpetual veto on the exercise by the Federal Government of its 
powers over income tax and industrial development, whilst limiting 
the moratorium on freedom of movement, which was of vital concern 
to Trinidad, for a period of nine years, this was not, as so many 
observers thought, the beginning of the end of Federation, it was rather 
the end of the beginning. 

The Jamaica Government had agreed to a referendum to decide 
the question of Jamaica's future in relation to the Federation. The 
governing party fought the referendum on the basis that the weak 
Federation could not possibly harm Jamaica's development. The 
opposition party fought the referendum on the clear issue of seces- 
sion and Jamaica having nothing to do with its Eastern Caribbean 
neighbours. The Opposition won the referendum by a small margin, 
with approximately one-third of the population abstaining from voting. 
The Jamaica Government decided to secede from the Federation and 
the Colonial Office agreed. 

Thereupon, the Government of Trinidad and Tobago took the stand 
that the secession of one territory meant the abandonment of the 1956 
compact for the Federation of ten territories. The Trinidad and 
Tobago slogan was *1 from 10 leaves 0'. This stand was subsequently 
upheld and the Federation was dissolved by an Act of Parliament. 

Trinidad and Tobago, like Jamaica, decided to proceed to national 
independence by itself. Unlike Jamaica, however, Trinidad and 
Tobago did not exclude association with its neighbours. But that asso- 
ciation was to take two forms - the first, related to the smaller terri- 
tories, was that, following the example of Tobago in 1899, the 
association must take the form of the expansion of the unitary state 
of Trinidad and Tobago. Much nonsense has been written in abuse 
of Trinidad and Tobago for this decision. The whole history of Trini- 
dad and Tobago and the West Indies, as presented above, is an 
exemplification of the fundamental soundness, from both the political 
and the economic point of view, of the decision of Trinidad and 

The second form of association proposed by Trinidad and Tobago 
involved the attempt to integrate the economies of the entire Carib- 
bean area not restricted as with the Federation to British territories. 
It appeared to Trinidad and Tobago that, if the European countries 
in the Common Market could subordinate their political jealousies 
and economic rivalries to integration of their complementary econo- 
mies, there was no reason why, especially with Britain's anxiety to 


join the Common Market, the Caribbean countries traditionally 
associated with European countries which were part of the Common 
Market could not themselves get together and try to organise, under 
the European umbrella, something approximating a Caribbean 
Economic Community. Towards this end, the Governments of Trini- 
dad and Tobago and Surinam have already embarked on profitable 
discussions, and it has been announced that the Government of France 
has agreed to explore with the Government of Trinidad and Tobago 
the possibilities of such association in respect of their overseas depart- 
ments of Martinique and Guadeloupe which are themselves, through 
France, integral parts of the European Common Market. 

Only time can tell what will be the outcome of the initiative 
of Trinidad and Tobago in these two directions. Suffice it to say that 
with the achievement of independence on August 31, 1962, Trinidad 
and Tobago stands out today as the standard bearer of the idea and 
ideal of Caribbean integration. 

If the advent of the People's National Movement on to the West 
Indian political stage inevitably foreshadowed, for a Party whose con- 
stitution and programme were based on the philosophy already 
indicated, a challenge to the whole concept of administrative con- 
solidation based on the Crown Colony mentality of 1876, it was just 
as inevitable that a powerful Nationalist Government would have 
come into conflict with a weak Federal Government located on its 
Territory and deriving its sustenance from the Colonial Office. What 
appeared to superficial observers as a conflict of personalities in the 
inglorious career of the Federation stemmed in reality from a conflict 
between a powerful nationalist idea with roots deep in a people who 
were the most cultivated and politically conscious in the area, and 
a weak Government looking for its inspiration to the British Colonial 
Office and the American State Department. Right from the outset a 
conflict developed between the Government of Trinidad and Tobago 
and the Federal Government in the field of foreign affairs. Two issues 
in particular were involved, the Venezuela 303! surtax and the Ameri- 
can Naval Base at Chaguaramas. 

The Venezuela 30% surtax was originally aimed by the Govern- 
ment of Venezuela at British manufactures transhipped from Trini- 
dad and Tobago to Venezuela. This trade had from the outset 
of Trinidad's annexation of the Colony, as we have seen, dominated 
Britain's interest in Trinidad. The intention of the Government of 
Venezuela was, by this measure, to force British firms to establish sub- 
sidiaries in Venezuela and ship direct to Venezuela. Some indication 
of the strength of public feeling in Trinidad on this measure is 
provided in a report of the Government Statistician to the Legislative 
Council in 1888 as follows: 

*I cannot conclude these remarks without expressing my regret 
that, as yet, no way has been found of convincing the Venezuelan 
Government of the impolicy, as well as the injustice, of such an 


unwarrantable impost as this 30 per cent additional duty. It is quite 
true that it is scarcely possible for any artificial barrier to entirely 
stem back or dry up a trade following so natural a channel as did 
that between this Colony and Venezuela, but the natural results 
of the imposition of such a barrier can never prove one-sided, but 
must inevitably be equally injurious and demoralising to the trade 
of both countries. In the best interests of both I would therefore 
urge that some further steps be taken to endeavour to secure the 
repeal of this unfair and unjustifiable impost.' 

The Venezuela surtax was of no particular importance except to 
a few Trinidad merchants so long as Trinidad remained a Crown 
Colony, dependent principally on sugar, and even the discovery of 
oil in Trinidad was of no particular significance to Venezuela rela- 
tions because Venezuela itself had even more substantial oil resources. 
With the emergence of a Nationalist Government in Trinidad, which 
was followed by the emergence of democracy in Venezuela and the 
overthrow of the traditional dictatorship, the political situation auto- 
matically changed. A Nationalist Government in Trinidad could not 
possibly acquiesce in a discrimination against a British Crown Colony, 
over 80 years old, whilst a democratic Government in Venezuela 
would obviously want to maintain friendly relations with a neighbour 
in its backyard, if only to ensure that the overthrown dictatorship 
would not find an asylum on Trinidad's soil or would not be allowed 
to abuse Trinidad's soil by hatching conspiracies against the lawful 
government of the people in Venezuela. The political consideration 
was reinforced by an economic consideration. The Venezuela surtax 
was imposed on British goods shipped from Trinidad. The develop- 
ment of the Trinidad economy by the Nationalist Movement diversi- 
fied the Trinidad and Tobago economy, and the Venezuela surtax 
imposed on British goods ended up by discriminating against goods 
produced in Trinidad and Tobago by workers of Trinidad and Tobago 
from, for the most part, the resources of Trinidad and Tobago. 

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago, therefore, immediately 
sought to establish good neighbourly relations with the democratic 
Government of Venezuela, and to have the surtax removed. Goodwill 
missions were exchanged on both sides and the foundations of a new 
and harmonious relationship were laid. These were suddenly disrupted 
when the Colonial Office entrusted to the Federal Government, which 
had at the time a lower constitutional status than that of Trinidad and 
Tobago, complete power in the field of Venezuelan relations, The 
Government of Trinidad and Tobago saw in this entrustment yet 
another attempt to hamstring the Nationalist Movement for indepen- 
dence by subordinating it to a federal power, destitute of financial 
resources, with limited constitutional powers, but very responsive in- 
deed to the influence of the Colonial Office. The Venezuelan Govern- 
ment, at best confused by having to deal with two parties, at worst 
presented with opportunity for dividing the two parties in order the 


better to ensure a continuation of the discrimination behind which 
certain vested interests had inevitably been built up, temporised The 
dissolution of the Federation and the achievement of independence 
by Trinidad and Tobago have restored the status quo. Tlie Govern- 
ment of Venezuela finds itself in the unenviable position today of 
being one of the only Governments in the world which perpetuates 
a colonial discrimination against an independent country, whose 
friendship must mean more than that of the friendship of many other 
countries. It is not difficult to predict the outcome of this massive 

The other issue in the field of external relations which embittered 
relations between Trinidad and Tobago and the Federal Government 
was the American Naval Base at Chaguaramas. Chaguaramas, as we 
have seen above, has always occupied an important place in the 
economic and social life of Trinidad and Tobago, either as the 
Spanish Naval Base when Trinidad was annexed by Britain or as the 
centre of one of the most serious slave revolts in the history of Trini- 
dad when it was still one of the most important sugar producing areas 
of the Island. In 1890 a respectable and long established family, the 
Siegert family, which today enjoys an international reputation in res- 
pect of its products, principally Angostura Bitters, submitted a 
proposal to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for establishing 
a deep water harbour in Chaguaramas Bay for the coaling of vessels, 
and the construction of a railway from Chaguaramas Bay to fink up 
with the terminus in Port-of -Spain. 

The proposition was submitted to the consulting engineer to the 
Government of Trinidad and Tobago, Sir John Coode. Sir John Coode 
warmly commended Mr Siegert's proposals in the following terms: 

'Summarising the foregoing recommendations I may remark that 
the construction of a satisfactory Quay, the formation of the re- 
claimed area and the provision of adequate berthings for vessels 
of deep draught in Chaguaramas Bay, are from aa engineering 
point of view perfectly feasible. 

The formation of a Railway from such Quay to the Port-of - 
Spain, is in my opinion a matter of absolute necessity for the proper 
and convenient working of the goods traffic in connection therewith. 
Further the site selected is capable of affording extended Quay and 
Wharf accommodation when required hereafter on the lines 

1 have not considered whether the project will be financially 
successful, as this is no part of my duty, but should it be carried 
into effect the trade and prosperity of the Colony generally cannot 
fail to be considerably benefited thereby.' 

Mr Siegert's proposal was at once attacked by vested interests in 
Port-of -Spain, principally British merchants who saw in Qiaguaramas 
an unwelcome rival. In a most astonishing argument the Chairman 
of the Dock Basin Committee in Trinidad claimed that it was not at 


all certain that Chaguaramas would be universally accepted and used 
as a port of entry, that it would be expensive to establish Chaguaramas 
as a port of entry, that the erection of warehouses at Chaguaramas 
for the storage of goods would very seriously depreciate the value of 
warehouses in Port-of -Spain, and that, since it would take some time 
to construct and complete the works at Chaguaramas the colony 
should duplicate the expenditure by proceeding with improvements 
and modifications in the Port-of -Spain harbour which were then under 
consideration. The fight was on. The Governor, Sir William Robinson, 
supported the Siegert proposal and opposed any Government expendi- 
ture on the Port-of -Spain harbour which would compete with private 
expenditure on the development of Chaguaramas. Eventually, towards 
the end of 1892, a draft contract with Mr Siegert was agreed to and 
accepted by the Governor and Legislative Council. The Chaguaramas 
Bay Agreement, a formidable document of 80 pages, with an index 
of 11 additional pages, was presented to the Legislative Council in 
Council Paper No. 167 of 1894. 

The cost of the proposed quay of 920 feet in length, and the 
reclamation of some 16 acres, including the erection of a coal shed 
and the provision of the necessary fittings for the convenient berth* 
ing of vessels, together with the dredging work involved, were esti- 
mated to cost 121,600. The estimate for the construction of the 
railway from Chaguaramas to Port-of-Spain with stations, rolling 
stock, etc., was 138,200. The total cost of the scheme, therefore, was 
259,800, approximately $! million. The promoter, however, was 
unable to raise the necessary finance for his proposal and the scheme 
was abandoned. 

A Government of Trinidad and Tobago which was able to find 
year after year thousands of dollars from the public treasury to finance 
the immigration of thousands of workers for the benefit of the sugar 
planters, was unable either to finance or assist the promoter in financ- 
ing a proposition which was regarded by the experts as being of the 
utmost importance to Trinidad. The Colonial Office, which was very 
shortly to intervene to demand that the municipality of Port-of -Spain 
should raise its rates and get the Governor's approval of its expendi- 
ture, which used its power year after year to divert a substantial part 
of Trinidad's revenue from education to immigration, could not use 
its power to promote a scheme that was of the greatest benefit to 
Trinidad and Tobago. Within three years of the draft Chaguaramas 
Bay Agreement the West Indian Royal Commision of 1897 was to 
emphasise the danger to Trinidad and to all the West Indian islands 
from the reduction or extinction of the sugar industry, and could 
only say that if Trinidad rigidly controlled its public expenditure and 
spent less on immigration, it would be able to tide over the difficulties 
faced by the sugar industry. Within four years of the draft Chaguara- 
mas Bay Agreement the Colonial Office was to pay 4,000 to Trini- 
dad for relieving it of the burden of Tobago. Nowhere, at any time, 
was there any suggestion, either by the Government of Trinidad and 


Tobago or by the Colonial Office, that this beneficial Chaguaramas 
scheme, warmly commended by a British consulting engineer, could 
have been financed by way of loan or directly by the Government, 
or by some form of assistance to the promoter. That was the Crown 
Colony system. It thought only of sugar. Its vision was limited by the 
circumference of a sugar plantation. Sugar meant cheap labour as 
far as it was concerned. The Colony's revenues could not be diverted 
from the introduction of cheap labour to the construction of a deep 
water harbour and the promotion of the colony's trade. 

This was the first Chaguaramas Agreement in the history of Trini- 
dad. The first agreement having aborted, Chaguaramas remained a 
playground for the people of Port-of -Spain until 1941, when it be- 
came the subject of a second Agreement, this time with a foreign 
power, this time for the utilisation of its remarkable deep water 
facilities for a naval base. To understand the full significance of this 
distortion of the normal course of Trinidad's history, which would 
inevitably have made the North West Peninsula a natural outlet for 
the population of Port-of -Spain which had to spill over instead into 
the heavily congested areas of Diego Martin, Carenage, Point Cumana, 
Glencoe, and La Horquette, we must now consider the expansion of 
the United States of America into the Caribbean area. 

That a new star had been added to the Caribbean firmament was 
strikingly and dramatically brought out in 1895, when a fifty-year 
old boundary dispute between British Guiana and Venezuela came to a 
head. The United States, to whom Venezuela had repeatedly appealed 
for support of its claims, decided to press the issue vigorously. The 
United States Secretary of State, Richard Olney, sent a despatch to 
the British Government which contained three essential points. The 
first may be stated in his own words: 'today the United States 
is practically sovereign on this continent, and its fiat is law upon the 
subjects to which it confines its interposition.* The second was that 
the three thousand miles of ocean which separated Europe from 
America were a physical fact which made any 'permanent union be- 
tween a European and American State unnatural and inexpedient.' 
The third was that the dispute fell within the competence of the Mon- 
roe Doctrine and, as such, affected the interests of the United States, 
which was within its rights in demanding that the truth be ascertained. 
'Being entitled to resent and resist any sequestration of Venezuelan 
soil by Great Britain, it is necessarily entitled to know whether 
such sequestration has occurred or is now going on*' Then followed 
the threat that, unless Great Britain consented to submit the 
entire matter to arbitration by an independent tribunal, 'the tran- 
saction will be regarded as injurious to the interests of the United 
States as well as oppressive in itself.* The doctrine of mani- 
fest destiny could not have been more incisively or arrogantly 

The British Foreign Secretary, Lord Salisbury, replied with similar 
incisiveness to the United States Secretary of State. His reply, too, 


consisted of three main points. The first was a virtual rejection of the 
Monroe Doctrine. Salisbury wrote: 

'International law is founded on the general consent of nations; 
and no statesman, however eminent, and no nation, however power- 
ful, are competent to insert into the code of international law a novel 
principle which was never recognised before, and which has not 
since been accepted by the Government of any other country. 
The United States have a right, like any other nation, to interpose in 
any controversy by which their own interests are affected, and they 
are the judge whether those interests are touched, and in what 
measure they should be sustained. But their rights are in no way 
strengthened or extended by the fact that controversy affects some 
territory which is called America.' 

In his second point Lord Salisbury dealt with Olney's criticism of 
the unnatural and inexpedient union between a European and an 
American state: 

The necessary meaning of these words is that the union between 
Great Britain and Canada; ' between Great Britain and Jamaica 
and Trinidad; between Great Britain and British Honduras or 
British Guiana are "inexpedient and unnatural" ... Mr Olney 
lays down that the inexpedient and unnatural character of the union 
between a European and American State is so obvious that it "will 
hardly be denied." Her Majesty's Government are prepared 
emphatically to deny it on behalf of both the British and American 
people who are subject to her crown.' 

Thirdly, while stressing that the question of arbitration was a matter 
for the two parties concerned, that Britain had repeatedly indicated to 
Venezuela its readiness to submit the issue to arbitration, and that the 
claim of a third party, unaffected by the controversy, to impose this 
procedure on the others could not be reasonably justified and had 
no foundation in the law of nations, Salisbury added that the British 
Government was 'not prepared to admit that the interests of the United 
States are necessarily concerned in every frontier dispute which may 
arise between any two of the States who possess dominion in the 
Western Hemisphere; and still less can they accept the doctrine that 
the United States are entitled to claim that the process of arbitration 
shall be applied to any demand for the surrender of territory which 
one of these States may make against another.' 

President Cleveland of the United States breathed defiance. In his 
famous message to Congress on December 17, 1895, he proposed the 
appointment of a United States Commission to investigate the facts, 
after which it would be the duty of the United States *to resist by every 
means in its power, as a wilful aggression upon its rights and interests, 
the appropriation by Great Britain of any lands or the exercise of 
governmental jurisdiction over any territory which, after investigation, 


we have determined of right belongs to Venezuela.' War loomed on 
the horizon. 

But in January, 1896, the German Kaiser sent his telegram to 
President Kruger of the Transvaal congratulating him on the frustra- 
tion of the Jameson Raid. With the Boer War on its hands, with Joseph 
Chamberlain as Colonial Secretary flirting with his dream of an 
alliance between the three great Anglo-Saxon powers, Great Britain, 
Germany and the United States, Britain adopted a conciliatory 
attitude and agreed to arbitration by an international tribunal, whose 
decision followed, in the main, the British claim. 

The Venezuela boundary dispute provides the setting for the Ameri- 
can incursion into the Caribbean with the Spanish-American War of 
1898. There were four factors involved. 

The first was that, by 1898, the United States had achieved a position 
of leadership in the industrial world and had supplanted Great Britain, 
the leader in the nineteenth century race. In 1835, Richard Cobden, 
the leader of nineteeth century British capitalism, viewing the 
Monongahela Valley flowing north to Pittsburg, had prophesied: 
'Here will one day centre the civilisation, the wealth, the power of the 
entire world.* Sixteen years later, on March 8, 1851, Britain's dis- 
tinguished journal, The Economist, had predicted: * ... the superiority 
of the United States to England is ultimately as certain as the next 
eclipse.* By 1898 the predictions had been fulfilled, and the leading 
circles in the United States knew it. *We hold now,' said the president 
of the American Bankers' Association, in a speech at Denver in 1898, 
*three of the winning cards in the game for commercial greatness, to 
wit - iron, steel and coal. We have long been the granary of the world, 
we now aspire to be its workshop, then we want to be its clearing- 

The following table provides the statistical demonstration of these 
proud but justified boasts with respect to the three leading countries of 
the world: 

Countries & Commodities 1880 1900 1913 

COAL million tons 

Great Britain 149 229 292 

Germany 47 109 190 

U.S.A. 65 245 517 

IRON million tons 

Britain 8 9 10 

Germany 2 7 19 

U.SA. 4 14 31 

STEEL million tons 

Great Britain 158 

Germany 1 6 19 

U.S.A. 1 10 31 

The second factor which explains the Spanish-American War was 
the growth of an unmistakably belligerent spirit in the United States of 


America. 'We are face to face with a strange destiny,' wrote the 
Washington Post in 1899. The taste of empire is in the mouth of the 
people even as the taste of blood in the jungle.' The incarnation of 
this spirit was Theodore Roosevelt, Governor of New York State, 
soon to be Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Vice President of the 
country, and, when President McKinley was assassinated, President. 
In a speech delivered at the opening of the naval War College in New- 
port, Rhode Island, on June 2, 1897, a speech which was widely praised 
all over the country, Roosevelt said: 

'A really great people, proud and high-spirited, would face all 
the disasters of war rather than purchase that base prosperity which 
is bought at the price of national honour . . . Cowardice in a race, 
as in an individual, is the unpardonable sin 9 and a wilful failure to 
prepare for danger may in its effects be as bad as cowardice ... As 
yet no nation can hold its place in the world or can do any work 
really worth doing unless it stands ready to guard its rights with an 
armed hand . . . Tame submission to foreign aggression of any kind 
is a mean and unworthy thing ... If ever we had to meet defeat at 
the hands of a foreign foe, or had to submit tamely to wrong or 
insult, every man among us worthy of the name of America, would 
feel dishonoured and debased . . . We feel that no national life is 
worth having if the nation is not willing, when the need shall arise, 
to stake everything on the supreme arbitrament of war, and to pour 
out its blood, its treasure, and tears like water rather than submit 
to the loss of honor and renown' 

This was not mere jingoism, which was a characteristic of the first 
Roosevelt. It was the underlying philosophy of a plan to repeal the 
Papal Donation of 1493 and its amendments. On February 9, 1898, 
he wrote to a correspondent: 

*I should myself like to shape our foreign policy with a purpose 
ultimately of driving off this continent every European power. I 
would begin with Spain, and in the end would take all other 
European nations, including England.' 

Roosevelt added that it was even more important to prevent any 
new nation from getting a foothold, and pointedly referred to Ger- 
many in this connection. Ten weeks after this letter the Spanish- 
American war broke out. 

A third factor in the situation was the preoccupation of the 
European powers. 1898 was a black year in Europe; the outbreak of 
World War I hung in the balance. At Fashoda, in that year, Anglo- 
French rivalry over Egypt brought both nations to the brink of war, 
and France was allied with Russia. In the same year Britain and 
Russia, at loggerheads over Persia, Afghanistan and Tibet, almost 
came to blows over Port Arthur. The battle of concessions in China 
was at its height, pitting nation against nation and the Chinese 


nationalist movement against all foreigners. The German Kaiser had 
launched his vigorous programme for a powerful navy, saying that 
Germany's future lay upon the water, Europe was thus too busy to 
pay too much attention to what was happening in the Caribbean. 

The final factor in the Spanish-American conflict was the value 
of Cuba to the United States. As early as 1881 a United States Con- 
sular Report had stated that Cuba was a commercial dependency of 
the United States but a political dependency of Spain. The sugar of 
Cuba, stated the United States Minister to Spain to the British Min- 
ister, was as vital to the people of the United States as the wheat and 
cotton of India and Egypt to the people of Great Britain. Accord- 
ing to Secretary of State Olney in 1896, United States investment in 
Cuba totalled fifty million dollars, the greater part in the sugar in- 
dustry; one of the leading United States investors has stated that 
Olney was always willing to listen to what he had to say about the 
Cuban situation. These investments were seriously affected and en- 
dangered by the outbreak of the second war of independence in Cuba. 
Olney was afraid that, once the power of Spain was withdrawn, Cuba 
would be partitioned into two parts, a white republic and a black 
republic, which raised the spectre of a race war. 

The outcome of the Spanish-American war was never in doubt. 
But what was involved far transcended the question of Cuban inde- 
pendence to which the United States was officially committed and 
which the United States public warmly espoused. On June 12, 1898 
Theodore Roosevelt wrote to Senator Lodge: *You must get Manila 
and Hawaii, you must prevent any talk of peace until we get Porto 
Rico and the Philippines as well as secure the independence of Cuba.* 
Whilst the question of Oriental annexations falls outside the scope 
of Caribbean history, the first and major result of the war was not only 
the independence of Cuba but United States annexation of Puerto 
Rico. The United States had acquired its first colony, and that colony, 
following the tradition set by Europe in previous centuries, was in 
the Caribbean. The once proud Spanish empire sanctioned by Papal 
dispensation in 1493 had ceased to exist. The first step had been taken 
towards making the Caribbean Sea, in the phrase that has become 
popular in the United States, *the American Mediterranean.* As the 
Assistant Secretary of State stated in 1904, *no picture of our future 
is complete which does not contemplate and comprehend the United 
States as the dominant power in the Caribbean Sea.* 

This is the background to the United States action on the Cuban 
question. Cuba's independence was recognised, but it was limited by 
the famous Platt Amendment which passed the United States Con- 
gress after a mere two hours of debate in March, 1901, and which 
led European statesmen to coin the phrase, to 'cubanise* a country. 
The Platt Amendment was as follows: 

*(1) That the Government of Cuba shall never enter into any 

treaty or other compact with any foreign power or powers which 

will impair or tend to impair the independence of Cuba, nor in any 


manner authorise or permit any foreign power or powers to obtain 
by colonisation or for military or naval purposes or otherwise, 
lodgment in or control over any portion of said Island. 

'(2) That said Government shall not assume or contract any public 
debt, to pay the interest upon which and to make reasonable 
sinking-fund provision for the ultimate discharge of which, the 
ordinary revenues of the Island, after defraying the current expenses 
of government, shall be inadequate. 

*(3) That the Government of Cuba consents that the United States 
may exercise the right to intervene for the preservation of Cuban 
independence, the maintenance of a government adequate for 
protection of life, property and individual liberty, and for discharg- 
ing the obligation with respect to Cuba imposed by the Treaty of 
Paris on the United States, now to be assumed and undertaken by 
the Government of Cuba. 

'(4) That all acts of the United States in Cuba during its military 
occupation thereof are ratified and validated, and all lawful rights 
acquired thereunder shall be maintained and protected. 

*(5) That the Government of Cuba will execute, and as far as 
necessary extend, the plans already devised or other plans to be 
mutually agreed upon, for the sanitation of the cities of the Island, 
to the end that a recurrence of epidemic and infectious diseases 
may be prevented, thereby ensuring protection of the people and 
commerce of Cuba, as well as to the commerce of the Southern 
parts of the United States and the people residing therein. 

'(6) That the Isle of Pines shall be omitted from the proposed 
constitutional boundaries of Cuba, the title thereto left to future 
adjustment by treaty. 

'(7) That to enable the United States to maintain the indepen- 
dence of Cuba, and to protect the people thereof, as well as for its 
own defence, the Government of Cuba will sell or lease to the 
United States lands necessary for coaling or naval stations at certain 
specified points, to be agreed upon with the President of the United 

*(8) That by way of further assurance the Government of Cuba 
will embody the foregoing in a permanent treaty with the United 

In 1906 the United States intervened, in accordance with the Platt 
Amendment, in a Cuban revolutionary movement which had 

If the Platt Amendment changed Cuba from a political dependency 
of Spain into what was universally regarded as a protectorate of the 
United States, the Reciprocity Treaty of 1902 was designed to main- 
tain the commercial relationship which had developed notwithstanding 
the Spanish sovereignty. The Treaty was presented to the House of 
Representatives of the United States in this entrancing vision of its 
'Sir, let Cuba become prosperous, with closer trade relations with 


the United States, making the conditions down there stable for five 
years or as much longer as this treaty shall remain in force. Let 
American capital go down there to develop the island and employ the 
islanders. Let there be a demand for better things and more of them. 
Multiply the buying capacity of the people as we have multiplied it 
in the last five years in the United States under the Dingley tariff law, 
so that the people want more, buy more, and are ready to give bigger 
prices, because they get larger wages. Under such improved conditions 
what shall be the figure of our imports into Cuba? Shall the amount 
be barely $60,000,000 as during the past year, for all imports, run- 
ning up to $100,000,000 in the days preceding the war; or shall it be 
what Colonel Bliss of the United States Army, a careful and impartial 
observer, says in his report on Cuba - $300,000,000 a year bought 
from the United States to supply the needs and capacities of the people 
down there? Why there are millions in this bill to the farmers and 
manufacturers of the United States'. 

Thereafter the United States of America intervened during the 
First World War to establish a military protectorate over Haiti and 
the Dominican Republic, independent States, in order partly to ensure 
against the establishment of any German naval bases in either of these 
Republics, and partly to take control of the customs of both Republics 
as a guarantee of payment of their debts. At the same time the United 
States of America purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark at a 
cost of $25 million, having endeavoured to acquire these islands as 
far back as 1867. As a result of considerable opposition in subsequent 
years in the South American countries to what came to be described 
as 'Yanqui' imperialism and dollar diplomacy, the U.S.A., under Presi- 
dent Franklin D. Roosevelt, withdrew its marines and announced the 
Good Neighbour Policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs 
of Latin America. 

This was the situation in the Caribbean when the Second World 
War broke out in 1939. The immediate result as far as the British. 
West Indies in general and Trinidad and Tobago in particular were 
concerned was the Anglo-American Agreement of 1941 by which, in 
return for 50 antiquated destroyers, the British Government conceded 
to the United States of America 99 year leases on certain areas in 
Antigua, St Lucia, Jamaica, British Guiana and Trinidad -the 
principal area in Trinidad being Chaguaramas, the north west 

Some information on these transactions, presenting the American 
point of view, has recently been made available in the Department 
of State publication, Foreign Relations of the United States, for the 
year 1941. The background to the transaction was stated in a letter 
from the President to the Secretary of State, Cordell Hull, on January 
11, 1941: 

There is always the possibility of their putting up their sovereignty 
to and over certain colonies, such as Bermuda, the British West 


Indies, British Honduras and British Guinea (Guiana?). I am not 
yet clear in mind, however, as to whether the United States should 
consider American sovereignty over these islands and their popula- 
tions and the two mainland colonies as something worth while or 
as a distinct liability. If we can get our naval bases why, for 
example, should we buy with them two million headaches, con- 
sisting of that number of human beings who would be a definite 
drag on this country, and who would stir up questions of racial 
stocks by virtue of their new status as American citizens?' 

A conference was convened in London on January 28, 1941 to dis- 
cuss the details of the entire transaction. The Government of Trinidad 
and Tobago was represented at the conference, along with other 
Colonial Governments. The reaction of the Colonial Governments 
to the claims and propositions put forward by the United States repre- 
sentatives was well expressed in an account transmitted by the United 
States Charg6 d' Affaires in London to Cordell Hull on January 21 
with particular respect to Bermuda. This account reads as follows: 

'While the Colonial Office is hopeful that the Governor may 
accomplish their purpose, they are apprehensive that if the backs 
of the Bermudans are put up too much the legislature will refuse 
to meet the Imperial Government's views. It was explained that 
the Imperial Government is in an entirely different position vis- 
a-vis Bermuda and the Bahamas to any other of the West Indian 
Island Governments; that the Imperial Government cannot by ex- 
ecutive action force the Bermuda legislature to pass any law or 
to implement any obligation of the Imperial Government. The only 
machinery for overriding the Bermuda legislature would be an act 
of Parliament - a last resort which they are most reluctant to invoke 
as it would arouse extreme hostility in Bermuda and in their opinion 
would have bad repercussions elsewhere as well as affording 
material for German propaganda. The Under Secretary and all 
his officials most earnestly assured me, and I am sure it is true, that 
the Colonial Office and the Government in London desire to meet 
our views as quickly as possible. We will take account of the difficult 
political situation with which they are faced in Bermuda and not 
try to push matters to an immediate conclusion. One of the officials 
present, who was a former Governor of Bermuda, said the single 
thing that was most alarming the legislature and people now was 
a clause in the draft lease which would give, in their opinion, blanket 
authority to the United States to take over in the future any other 
site on the island they wanted and that they therefore felt that they 
had no protection; that what they are clamouring for now is some 
assurance that as to where the United States* requests would stop. 
The Colonial Office hopes that the meeting shortly to take place 
here with United States officials will be able to eliminate all serious 
points of difference and many of the minor ones. 

'I pointed out to the official that while I could understand that 


the Bermudans would feel upset at such great changes in their way 
of life, that nevertheless our officials were under the urgent necessity 
to begin their programmes, that the purposes for which they were 
there were obviously of overriding necessity and that my Govern- 
ment necessarily had to look to the Imperial Government to 
implement the agreement contained in our exchange of notes of 
last September. The Colonial Office readily admits that we must 
look to the Imperial Government for action, but says they hope the 
statements which have been outlined above will convince the 
Department that the Government is doing all it can in a practicable 
way to effect a speedy solution and they hope we will understand 
their desire to obtain action through the consent of Bermuda and 
not through the Imperial Government being forced to override 
them by an act of Parliament.' 

The British Government, with its back to the wall at the 'height of 
the war, put up what resistance it could - but this was not much - to 
America's claims which seemed to it, as to the Colonial Governments, 
far in excess of what was required for military defence. The British 
Embassy in Washington put up the case for the colonials in a memo- 
randum to the Department of State on February 26, 1941, as 

'the question to be solved would seem to be how to arrange that 
the United States authorities in the various territories shall obtain 
adequate powers to defend, control and operate their bases with 
the minimum disturbance to the existing British administrative and 
jurisdictional arrangements. 

'There is, of course, no suggestion that the United States Govern- 
ment should be denied any powers which they consider necessary 
for the proper defence or use of the bases. At the same time, it is 
felt that it is most important that the fullest consideration should 
be given to the interests and feelings of the local inhabitants and 
that the existing administrative and jurisdictional arrangements 
should only be disturbed if this is really essential for the proper 
defence of the American bases. While the British authorities are 
naturally particularly concerned to protect the interests of the local 
inhabitants for whose welfare they are responsible, it is felt that it 
is equally to the advantage of the United States authorities to see 
that the leases are drawn up in such a manner as to reduce to the 
minimum the possible causes of friction between the various parties 
concerned. The leases are to run for a period of 99 years, and that 
being so it is clearly necessary that their long term effect upon the 
well being of the local inhabitants should be taken into account. It 
would seem however, that the instructions sent to the United States 
Delegates in London make it difficult for the latter to pay due 
account to the interests of the different territories and their 
inhabitants, and compel them to put forward demands for conces- 


sions or facilities which would not seem to be essential for the 
defence control of the bases.' 

The British Government agreed with the American proposals only 
with the greatest reluctance; and it was only Sir Winston Churchill's 
personal decision which eventually allowed the Agreement to go 
through. This is well brought out in a report by the United States 
representatives at the Conference to President Roosevelt: 

The agreement embodies a number of concessions by the British, 
particularly with respect to the specification of rights, defence and 
jurisdiction which they were most reluctant to make. They were 
finally secured yesterday at a meeting attended by the Prime 
Minister, Lord Moyne, Admiral Sir Dudley Pound, Chairman of 
the Chiefs of Staffs' Committee; Sir Alan Burns, the Ambassador 
and ourselves. The Prime Minister indicated that our requests in 
sortie respects went beyond the intent of the exchange of notes of 
September 2, 1940, but that he had no desire to restrict our necessary 
military requirements and that in view of the general situation he 
was prepared to accept our views. He considered, however, that 
the concessions given represent the maximum which the British could 
give. He held that any further concessions would probably neces- 
sitate an act of Parliament to override Colonial legislatures and 
would be difficult to defend in Parliament should the need for such 
an act arise. 

*The Prime Minister attaches great importance to the fourth 
clause of the preamble which he considers truly represents the spirit 
in which the whole base lease project was conceived and should be 
carried out. Without it he said the agreement would be more of 
a "capitulation'* than a friendly arrangement between great powers. 
He holds that this clause sets the tone of the whole agreement that 
the British Government could agree on the understanding that our 
rights would be exercised in that spirit to a number of points which 
they could never otherwise concede and that his presentation of 
the agreement to Parliament will be based upon the spirit of the 

The American Ambassador in London, John Winant, thus summed 
up the American view of the 1941 Agreement: 

'The Base Lease Agreement has been signed. I think it contains 
everything we need to use these bases effectively. 

The rights and powers it conveys are far-reaching, probably more 
far-reaching than any the British Government has ever given any- 
one over British territory before. They are not used to giving such 
concessions and on certain points they have fought every inch of 
the way. While they have intended all along to give us everything 
we really needed -they could do no less and had no desire to do 
less -it was a real struggle for them to break habits of 300 years. 
The Prime Minister has been generous throughout. Certain powers, 


notably those in article XII, are so sweeping that the British would 
never have granted them except as a natural consequence of the 
original agreement and the spirit which it embodies. 

'It is important that the agreement be carried out in that spirit. 
The Colonies have been lightly touched by the war, their point of 
view is local and their way of life will be greatly changed by the 
bases. In the main the changes will benefit them but it may take 
them some time to find it out. 

*In the negotiations both sides have tried to avoid anything which 
would wall off the bases from the local communities. Our people 
and theirs are to live together without even a fence, much less a 
frontier, between them. 

The character of the men in command of the bases is of tremen- 
dous importance, especially in the beginning. If they are the right 
kind and ready to carry out our part of the agreement in a friendly 
and understanding spirit they can do much to inaugurate 99 years 
of good neighbourliness.' 

This is the American story. The Trinidad and Tobago story has 
not yet been told. The United States representatives concentrated 
on the British Government and ignored the representatives of the 
Crown Colony legislatures. The Trinidad story, which will certainly 
be told one day, will supplement the American narrative, correct the 
distortion, and present, what is totally excluded in the American docu- 
ment, the point of view of the Government and people of Trinidad 
and Tobago. 

That point of view was one of almost total resistance to the Ameri- 
can demands. The centre of the opposition was the Governor, Sir 
Hubert Young. Conventionally regarded as an autocrat, Sir Hubert 
Young was one of those strange characters that one encounters in 
the colonial history of the West Indies, ready to resist at all times any 
demands of the people for self government, but in the foreground 
of their defenders when certain of their rights were threatened. 

The main points of the Trinidad opposition were as follows. The 
first, was that, if any base was to be granted at all it should not be 
at Chaguaramas. Chaguaramas was the obvious area for the future 
development of Port-of -Spain. It provided the best beaches close to 
Port-of -Spain, and from the standpoint of future economic develop- 
ment of the country, Chaguaramas occupied a key position. Sir Hubert 
Young was convinced that the United States of America should seek 
an area which would not deprive Trinidad and Tobago of any of its 
assets, but which, if the Americans developed it, would add to the 
assets of Trinidad and Tobago and thus make a contribution to the 
development of the society and the population. He suggested the 
Caroni Swamp, and went on a personal mission to Washington to try 
to convince the Americans. The Americans simply would not listen 
to him and the American Press gave him a rough time. They claimed 
that reclamation of the swamp would be too costly both in time and 


money, and against the Governer's protest rushed through their selec- 
tion of Chaguaramas in some ten days. The Governor also protested 
against dispersal of the American locations in so many spots over 
the island that, based on the supplementary leases which the Agree- 
ment permitted them to obtain, a committee subsequently appointed 
by the Government of the People's National Movement claimed that, 
if the war had continued much longer, the people of Trinidad would 
have had to live in the Gulf of Paria. 

The opposition to the 1941 Agreement from the West Indian 
Colonial Governments and Governors centred around, in the second 
place, the 99-year lease. Governor after Governor, and particularly 
Sir Hubert Young, issued stern warnings of an unavoidable conflict 
with the nationalist movement when the West Indian movement for 
self government had achieved its aspirations. The United States of 
America would not listen and Britain, perhaps, could not. 

The third feature of the 1941 Agreement which provoked intense 
dissatisfaction in the Colonies was the fiscal and customs privileges 
extended to the American Forces. The Government of Trinidad and 
Tobago, in particular, which had to bear the major brunt of the 
American Army of occupation, was particularly concerned about 
the many incidents which, from the start, developed in violation of 
customs laws and currency controls, in the absence of even a fence, 
much less a frontier, separating the Bases from the local territory. 

The fourth point of colonial resistence to the 1941 Agreement was 
the extra territorial rights extended to the American Forces. This 
ultimately involved, as many West Indians foresaw, serious difficulties 
between the Colonial Government and the American Command in 
relation to offences of one sort or another committed by the occupa- 
tion troops. The general situation was not assisted by the obvious 
concern with questions of race and colour which dominated the 
highest American circles in this matter. 

The final bone of contention emerged at the end of the War when 
the Americans retained control of large areas of Trinidad which they 
obviously did not need. 

The situation was bound to come to a head sooner or later. It came 
to a head in 1957 when the representatives of the West Indian terri- 
tories selected Chaguaramas as the most suitable site for the location 
of the Federal Capital. Thereafter, in the course of patient research, 
a long train of abuses was brought to light - agricultural cultivation 
for profit on the naval base in competition with local producers; sales 
to the local residents in violation of local laws of prohibited foreign im- 
ports or of imports brought in free of customs duty for consumption 
by American troops; repeated infractions of the local currency con- 
trol system; expansion of the American facilities accorded in 1941 
as, for example, the construction of a missile tracking station. With 
the increase in international tension the suspicion was engendered 
that Trinidad and Tobago was being brought within the scope of 
nuclear weapons and nuclear war. With the emergence of a local con- 


cern with foreign relations, the apprehension grew that the naval base 
would be utilised by the United States of America for purposes which 
could not be regarded as being in the interest of the people of Trini- 
dad and Tobago - as, for example, the hostile reception of a United 
States Vice President in Venezuela. Without any agreement at all, 
and without the approval of the Government of Trinidad and Tobago, 
the American Military Command had virtually made the Piarco Air- 
port in Trinidad a United States Military Airport. 

The entire situation was embittered by the public knowledge that 
officials of the United States Naval Station in Chaguaramas were 
intervening in local politics. 

Public feeling was aroused and all the bitterness of the days of 1941 
revived. The general feeling was expressed by the Premier of Trinidad 
and Tobago in a speech at Arima in July 1959 : 

*The whole West Indian movement is moving towards control 
of its own affairs. I, too, would like to know the clause in Adam's 
will which denies the West Indian people a share of the world, 
especially a share of the world that rightly belongs to them. And 
what progress have we made if, instead of the fortress in Havana, 
guarding the treasure fleets in the 16th century (you could see in 
St Kitts a tremendous fortress built by slave labour, Brimstone Hill, 
symbolising the time when that tiny island of St Kitts was divided 
up, half to the French and half to the British, with constant warfare 
until the British took the whole island over), what progress have 
we made, if we have substituted Chaguaramas, the naval base of 
the 20th century, for Brimstone Hill, the military base of the 18th 
century, and Morro Castle, the military base of the 16th century? 
Are we still to be bases defending Spain's treasure fleet on the one 
hand, British sugar lifeline on the other, and, in this case, the lifeline 
of the United States of America? Historically speaking, where are 
we going? We come to the population and we say: Cabinet Govern- 
ment as the step towards full internal self-government. But how 
could you have full internal self-government if you don't have con- 
trol over a part of your territory, if people are allowed to land a 
plane here without permission, if they could claim all sorts of 
economic privileges that you cannot guarantee to your own 

'It is the Americans who have to answer the question; it is we 
in Trinidad who ask the question, it is their answer. And the first 
question that they have to answer is: are they for colonialism or 
against it? This was British colonialism, this was Spanish colonial- 
ism, this was French colonialism; if the Americans do the same 
thing it can only be defined as American colonialism. All over the 
West Indies this movement is breaking out, Venezuela, Cuba, and 
Cuba has a base, Guantanamo Bay, imposed in 1906, by a 
permanent treaty with the United States. Ours is 99 years like the 
Philippines. Theirs is permanent. What sort of thing is this? What 


is sacred about 99 years? One of the Kings of England, King 
Charles the II, I believe, gave a contract to a company which he 
dignified by permitting it to use the title "Royal", gave the Royal 
African Company a contract for the monopoly of supplying slaves 
to the West Indies for 1,000 years. We should still be slaves today. 
The contract should come to an end in the year 2,663. (Laughter.) 
And look at us here in 1959 enjoying some sort of Cabinet Day. 
That we have to decide. The 99 years don't mean a thing, really. 
Because as you know, I think we have said it before, let's say it again 
for the record, tonight, they are not committed to the development 
of the areas. You should see Waller Field. We are supposed to main- 
tain Waller Field. There are parts of Chaguaramas today which 
have been allowed to revert to jungle. Scotland Bay and Teteron 
Bay, they are not supposed to keep it up. They could move from 
Chaguaramas tomorrow and they would say they must get it back 
on 48 hours notice - but we will have plenty to say about that. They 
are under no obligation to defend, they don't have to employ a 
single West Indian. They don't have to have anything standing 
down there, they were just given areas for 99 years. And we have 
to ask ourselves, what is this? The British Government in the 
colonial period left large parts of the West Indies undeveloped and 
unexploited- Dominica, St Vincent, Grenada, Tobago. Are we, 
with a Cabinet, are we with self-government, going to have large 
parts or large areas, like Waller Field or Tucker Valley, lying un- 
developed, lying unexploited, when you can't get enough land for 
the people of Trinidad and Tobago, when you require all sorts of 
opportunities, when you require to exploit all sorts of opportunities 
to develop our limited resources and for finding employment for 
our population? They are going to have to decide that. And then 
somebody comes to tell us if we behave badly, we won't get 
,American aid. 

The Government offered the United States of America an alterna- 
tive site for a base in Trinidad. As a result of its insistence it was able 
to secure the appointment of a four party commission, the United 
Kingdom, the United States, the Federal Government and the 
Government of Trinidad and Tobago, to consider the question of an 
alternative site. The commission reported to the effect that, whilst 
Chaguaramas was the best site for a naval base, an alternative base 
could quite easily and quite conveniently be located in Irois Bay in 
the south west part of the island. The alternative site was rejected by 
the United States Government, and when the Federal Government 
indicated a readiness to accept assurances and compromises that were 
unacceptable to Trinidad and Tobago, the weak Federal Government 
was further weakened by another conflict with the Government of 
Trinidad and Tobago in which the Federal Government fell into the 
worst possible mistake any Government could find itself, supporting 
the American Government and pleading with the British Government 


for support against the Government of a unit Territory which had 
enormous mass support. When on April 22, 1960, the People's 
National Movement staged a demonstration in Port-of -Spain in which 
thousands marched in a steady downpour in manifestation of their 
support for full national independence and for the revision of the 
1941 Agreement, it was quite clear that the Federal Government was 

Persistent pressure from the Government of Trinidad and Tobago 
forced the American and British Governments to agree to a con- 
ference to consider the 1941 Agreement. The Americans and British 
decided that it would be a tripartite conference, with Trinidad and 
Tobago forming part of a federal delegation. The Trinidad and 
Tobago Government insisted on its separate, direct and equal repre- 
sentation in a matter which it had raised, in a matter in which its views 
were notoriously divergent from those of the Federal Government, 
in a matter in which, under the 1941 Agreement, it and it alone was 
involved in respect of customs, or restoration of its lands, or rights 
and duties under that Agreement, in a matter finally which it alone 
knew and of which the Federal Government had no knowledge what- 
soever. Eventually, after protracted and unnecessary negotiations, 
it was decided that the conference would be held in three stages. In 
the first, the formal stage in London, there would be speeches and 
protocol for press and radio. In the second, the effective stage, which 
was eventually held in Tobago, the Territory concerned would 
negotiate directly with the American Government, with the British 
and Federal Governments on the sideline, observing. In the third stage, 
held in Port-of-Spain in Federal quarters, the Agreement was to be 

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago had previously made 
proposals to the United States authorities for the reduction of the 99 
year term to a maximum of 10 years, for the immediate restoration of 
areas at Waller Field and Carlsen Field which were not being utilised, 
and for the reduction of the leased area in Chaguaramas in the north 
west peninsula by the restoration of areas growing citrus and dedicated 
obviously to non-military uses. This submission formed the basis of 
the discussions in Tobago in which the Trinidad and Tobago delega- 
tion, which was prepared to accept a phased restoration of the military 
areas over a period extending to 17 years, submitted that if through 
Chaguaramas the people of Trinidad and Tobago had been able to 
contribute freely to the preservation of the American way of life, the 
Americans in the new Agreement should undertake to contribute to 
the preservation of the Trinidad and Tobago way of life and to the 
development of the self governing Trinidad and Tobago society, 

Five specific projects were put forward by the delegation under 
this head to be financed by the United States of America : 

(1) The construction of an alternative road from Diego Martin to 
Chaguaramas to ease existing congestion which would obviously 
be enormously aggravated in time of emergency if the base 


were to be called upon to perform the functions for which its 
retention was requested by the United States Government. 

(2) The reclamation of the Cocorite Swamp as an integral part of 
the new road to Chaguaramas, which would incidentally make 
available a large area of land for low cost and middle class 
housing for the benefit of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. 

(3) The improvement of the port facilities in Port-of -Spain, not 
only to assist the Territory, but also as an insurance in the event 
of war in the light of the experience in 1941 when the port was 
almost entirely taken over for United States military purposes. 

(4) The rehabilitation of the Trinidad Government Railway which 
had been taken over by the military authorities in 1941, which 
would serve conceivably a similarly valuable purpose in the 
event of another emergency, and whose notorious deficits 
originated with American control during the Second World 

(5) The establishment of a College of Arts with an excellent 
library endowed with a collection of Americana as the most 
appropriate contribution that America could make to Trinidad 
and Tobago and which Trinidad and Tobago would always 
want to associate with America. 

The delegation also raised the question of a sugar quota for Trini- 
dad and Tobago in the United States market, on the principle that 
America cannot be the military friend and the economic enemy of 
Trinidad and Tobago. 

The new Agreement was worked out in Tobago in an atmosphere 
of rare good will and friendship; Trinidad and Tobago's first diplo- 
matic success in the field of international relations. The Agreement, 
however, has remained so far, largely on paper, as a result of 
the American claim that they agreed only to participate in and not 
to provide the five projects indicated above, and as a result of the 
American attempt to inject into the Agreement considerations of the 
national income of Trinidad and Tobago and Trinidad's prosperity as 
compared with other Caribbean Territories which were quite foreign 
to the Tobago discussions and quite irrelevant to a military agreement. 
The situation has not been improved by the American refusal to date 
to consider any of the conventional forms of economic aid to develop- 
ing countries such as was requested officially by the Government of 
Trinidad and Tobago in October 1961 in the field of housing, not only 
to raise the standard of living in the country but also to provide much 
needed employment. And there the matter stands -for the present. 

This was the general situation in which Trinidad and Tobago found 
itself at the beginning of 1962. The Federation was dead. The Govern- 
ment of the country was committed to independence for Trinidad 
and Tobago. The success of the programme of economic development 
had established the economic and political stability of Trinidad and 
Tobago in the eyes of investors. The country proceeded rapidly on 
the road to independence; a draft Constitution was submitted to 


popular discussion, both written and oral, in a manifestation of 
democracy perhaps unprecedented in modern times. 

The opposition element in the country expressed grave apprehen- 
sion about the draft Constitution even after extensive modifications 
as a result of popular comments. The Parliamentary Opposition, led 
by Dr Rudranath Capildeo, called for greater safeguards in a number 
of fields with particular reference to the Judiciary, appointments to 
the Public Service, the control of Elections, the protection of human 
rights, and provision for consultation with the Opposition. Some sec- 
tional interest advocated proportional representation and the Con- 
stitution of Cyprus. It was alleged that racial discrimination prevailed 
in public appointments and in the award of scholarships. This was 
shown to be without substance, and Trinidad and Tobago and the 
world at large were given evidence of an integration possibly without 
parallel in the world, certainly unequalled in many other multi-racial 
communities, in the public service generally, in the teaching profes- 
sion, in professions like law and medicine and dentistry, and in other 

The Independence Conference opened in London in Marlborough 
House on May 28, 1962 and ended on June 8, a great success for the 
two major Parties and for the country as a whole. Carefully eschew- 
ing to divide the major racial groups in the community, a constitu- 
tion was achieved which kept Trinidad and Tobago as a monarchical 
state in the Commonwealth, provided for the independence of the 
Judiciary, ensured the rights and privileges of the Parliament and its 
Members, guaranteed equality of opportunity and the removal of dis- 
crimination in the public service, ensured the independence of the 
Auditor General, and provided for the control of Elections and de- 
limitation of constituencies. Under the benevolent and efficient 
chairmanship of the United Kingdom, whose goodwill and sincerity 
in respect of independence were never in doubt, the leaders of the 
two political parties publicly pledged themselves to associate on their 
return to Trinidad in bipartisan discussions designed to prevent the 
disruption or jeopardising of national unity on national issues. 

What for centuries the people of the colony together had aspired 
to, the two political parties together achieved in London, 

To the rejoicing of all the people of Trinidad and Tobago, Inde- 
pendence Day was fixed for August 31, 1962. 


Independence Day, August 31, 1962, finds Trinidad and Tobago no 
longer a great workshop operated by slave or semi-servile labour, 
but a miniature state. Two races have been freed, but a society has 
not been formed. It takes more than national boundaries, a National 
Anthem however stirring, a National Coat of Arms however distinc- 
tive, a National Flag however appropriate, a National Flower how- 
ever beautiful, to make a nation. The task facing the people of Trini- 
dad and Tobago after their Independence is to create a nation out 
of the discordant elements and antagonistic principles and competing 
faiths and rival colours which have produced the amalgam that is 
today the approximately 875,000 people of Trinidad and Tobago. 

In assuming this enormous responsibility the people of Trinidad 
and Tobago have two decisive advantages, provided only that they 
appreciate them and act accordingly. 

The first advantage is the fundamental underlying unity of the 
society of Trinidad and Tobago. A foreign student, with all the im- 
petuosity of youth rushing in where angels fear to tread, may talk 
glibly of an Indian village in Trinidad not being West Indian, and 
predict that the Indians will never be assimilated. It is certain, how- 
ever, that he did not have to paint his white face black or brown to 
ascertain this, as a compatriot of his had to do in respect of his native 
country. The fact of the matter is, however, that in Trinidad the 
Negro, the Indian, French and Spaniard, English and Portuguese, 
Syrian and Lebanese, Chinese and Jew, all have messed out of the 
same pot, all are victims of the same subordination, all have been 
tarred with the same brush of political inferiority. Divergent customs 
and antipathetic attitudes have all been submerged in the common 
subordinate status of colonialism. All have been maligned for 
centuries -the Amerindians as subhuman, the Africans as closer to 
the ape, without manufactures, arts, or sciences, the Indians as savages, 
without a history of their own, objects of commerce and conquest, 
the Chinese as a passive people and a negative element, the European 
reformers as disreputable persons courting Negro suffrages. Cipriani, 
Butler, Solomon, the same epithet was applied to all - 'agitators'. 

Whether it was carnival or hosea or water, the same blank wall of 
governmental indifference faced the people, the same gulf separated 
governors and governed. Froude in 1887 repeated the Secretary of 
State for the Colonies, Lord Liverpool, in 1810, in opposing any form 
of government which would subject a white minority to a coloured 
majority, Joseph Chamberlain, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 
repeated in 1903 substantially what Froude had written in 1887, that 
external control was alone suited to the conditions of Trinidad. The 



continued separation of the separate racial groups was the principal 
aim of policy; they were kept separate by law in respect of schools, 
in respect of latrines, in respect of location, insofar as the Indians 
were virtually tied to the plantations to which they were indentured. 
Portuguese indenture was hardly distinguishable from African slavery, 
and Indian indenture differed from Portuguese only in its greater 
intensity and in the larger numbers involved. Together the various 
groups in Trinidad and Tobago have suffered, together they have 
aspired, together they have achieved. Only together can they succeed. 

And only together can they build a society, can they build a nation, 
can they build a homeland. There can be no Mother India for those 
whose ancestors came from India; the young Trinidad novelist, 
Ismith Khan, in his recent novel The Jumble Bird, has described the 
disappointment of the Indians when the first Commissioner of the 
Government of India arrived in Trinidad some 11 years ago, not to 
arrange their repatriation as they had hoped, but to advise them to 
stay in Trinidad and become good Trinidad citizens. There can be 
no Mother Africa for those of African origin, and the Trinidad and 
Tobago society is living a lie and heading for trouble if it seeks to 
create the impression or to allow others to act under the delusion that 
Trinidad and Tobago is an African society. There can be no Mother 
England and no dual loyalties; no person can be allowed to get the 
best of both worlds, and to enjoy the privileges of citizenship in Trini- 
dad and Tobago whilst expecting to retain United Kingdom citizen- 
ship. There can be no Mother China, even if one could agree as to 
which China is the Mother; and there can be no Mother Syria or no 
Mother Lebanon. A nation, like an individual, can have only one 
Mother. The only Mother we recognise is Mother Trinidad and 
Tobago, and Mother cannot discriminate between her children. All 
must be equal in her eyes. And no possible interference can be 
tolerated by any country outside in our family relations and domestic 
quarrels, no matter what it has contributed and when to the popula- 
tion that is today the people of Trinidad and Tobago. 

The second decisive advantage with which the people of Trinidad 
and Tobago assume their Independence status is that they cannot 
conceivably do worse than their former metropolitan governors. 
Spanish colonialism in 1797 was bankrupt; Spain reigned but France 
governed, and Britain took over without firing a shot. British colonial- 
ism in 1941 was bankrupt; Britain reigned but America governed, 
and America took over Trinidad without firing a shot. Spanish 
colonialism was absolutely powerless to develop Trinidad's economy, 
and European colonialism could only treat Tobago as waste land. 
British colonialism was equally powerless. It denied Trinidad African 
slaves to develop the sugar industry but authorised Indian semi-slaves 
to develop the sugar industry. It compensated British planters out 
of British funds for the slaves emancipated, and utilised Trinidad's 
revenues as further compensation to British planters to enable them 
virtually to enslave thousands of Indians. It protected Trinidad's sugar 


in Britain's market only in 1845 to cast it adrift in a hostile world; 
Trinidad turned to the United States of America until with the closing 
of the American door it sought refuge in Canadian reciprocity; 
brought back into the British fold shortly after, Trinidad's sugar now 
faces with Independence the uncertainties of the European Common 
Market. A population brought in indiscriminately without any thought 
for the future, four being brought in to do the work of three, with 
an outward migration exceeding an inward migration and raising the 
sceptre of possible forced repatriation in later years, laying the 
foundation of an inevitable explosion in a society in which official- 
dom has always encouraged population growth, pressing more and 
more on economic resources which have not expanded in the same 
proportion, that population that was told by the Royal Commission 
of 1897 that it had been placed where it was by the British Govern- 
ment which could not divest itself of responsibility for their future, 
that population which in its Independence Constitution has through 
its political parties specially entrenched Trinidad and Tobago in the 
Commonwealth, that population is now discriminated against solely 
on grounds of race and colour by the Commonwealth Immigration 
Bill as it has been kept out for decades by other Commonwealth 
countries and by the United States of America. Always the metro- 
politan interest has dominated and the colonial interest was subor- 
dinated or ignored. If Trinidad was to be united with Tobago it was 
because of the paramountcy of British interests. If Trinidad was to 
be associated in a Federation with the other territories, it was because 
of the paramountcy of British interests in respect of defence and 
administrative consolidation. 

The population of Trinidad and Tobago must be made of the 
poorest stuff if it cannot improve on more than four and a half 
centuries of colonialism. 

Unless of course the metropolitan countries take the view that 
Independence is a penalty imposed upon a refractory people. Unless 
of course the metropolitan countries continue to take the view that 
Trinidad's wealth makes economic and financial assistance unneces- 
sary. Unless of course the metropolitan countries take the view that 
Trinidad is to relieve Britain of its responsibility in other parts of the 
Caribbean as it was required to do in 1898 with Tobago, Unless of 
course the metropolitan countries take the view that metropolitan 
interests are better served by Independence than by colonialism, by 
ridding them of two million headaches, and by merely controlling 
the local population and defending metropolitan interests by con- 
verting sugar colonies into naval bases, as the Americans did in 1941. 
Unless of course the metropolitan countries take the view that the 
independent country must continue, on the basis of its colonial antece- 
dents, to subserve metropolitan ends, must cease therefore to grow 
sugar which embarrasses the metropolitan countries in its search for 
markets, as they had for generations been commanded to grow sugar, 
and must concentrate, as was recommended some eight years ago 


by an Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the United States at a Trade 
Promotion Conference in Trinidad held under the auspices of the 
Caribbean Commission, the quintessence of metropolitan ineptitude, 
on the production of flavours and essences for the American ice cream 
industry. Unless of course the metropolitan countries continue to find 
it difficult, as Froude and Trollope found it difficult or as the Chagua- 
ramas Agreement of 1941 indicated that it was difficult, for them to 
treat the people of Trinidad and Tobago as their political and intellec- 
tual equals. 

Against these two decisive advantages the people of Trinidad and 
Tobago face one overwhelming disadvantage. That is the national 
character, as developed and encouraged by generations of slavery 
and colonialism, by harsh pressures, political, economic and social, 
to which they have been subjected, by the domination in theory and 
in fact of the metropolitan organisation and the metropolitan 
civilisation personified by the expatriate officer who ruled Trinidad 
and Tobago without any reference whatsoever to the wishes or 
opinions or needs of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. In this 
climate, political rather than physical, social climbing has become the 
major industry of Trinidad and Tobago - invitations to cocktail 
parties, and appearing in the photographs and social columns of the 
newspapers. Legal slavery and political slavery implicit in the nomi- 
nated system have led to a capacity for individual ingratiation with 
the political powers or the social arbiters that make Trinidad and 
Tobago a byword even among the West Indian territories. The 
pronounced materialism and disastrous individualism have spread to 
all parts of the fabric of the society; Vidia Naipaul has dissected them 
mercilessly in his recent book The Middle Passage: The Caribbean 
Revisited. The political parties are riddled with individualism. The 
trade unions are riddled with individualism. The professions are 
riddled with individualism. Each seeks aggrandisement at the expense 
of his neighbour, giving rise to attitudes that threaten equality of 
opportunity and jeopardise political democracy. Some of those who 
protest against colonial exploitation seek in the same breath to demand 
the perquisites enjoyed by the expatriates, seeking thereby not only 
to foist upon the people of Trinidad and Tobago a perpetuation of 
colonial standards and colonial privileges, but also to maintain the 
same distributive injustice which precipitated the nationalist move- 
ment; as if a parasite ceases to be offensive because it is indigenous. 
Some of those who were despised and ignored by the former colonial 
system have as their main anxiety to place themselves in positions 
where they could bask in the sunshine of those in authority, and if 
their advice is not accepted or their own inflated assessment of their 
importance not shared by others, they rush off in a huff and attack or 
form a rival union, or form a rival party, or indulge in the lowest form 
of intrigue and machinations. The whole society lived in the colonial 
period on a colonial making himself persona grata with a particular 
big shot who could make or break him, and the tradition of the 


colonial service as well as of private employment in the colonial ser- 
vice as well as of private employment in the colonial days is one of the 
rankest forms of discrimination; there are those today who see in 
nationalism and self government nothing but an opportunity for 
establishing their own little clique and having around them a mass 
of clients and proteg6s whom they push forward at the expense of 

Their history was in the past made for the people of Trinidad and 
Tobago. They were the subjects and the objects of that history. With 
Independence, the people of Trinidad and Tobago will make their 
own history; they will be active and no longer passive. There are 
many injustices to correct and many indignities to remove. But if 
colonialism meant the exploitation of the people of Trinidad and 
Tobago with others growing fat on the fruits of their sweated labour, 
Independence means not that they must work less, but that they must 
work more, not for others, but for themselves. The slave could idle 
when he was working for his master, and the indentured worker could 
feign sickness and go to hospital This was passive resistance, the 
retribution exacted by the weak majority from the strong minority. 
The slackers and the thieves and the confidence men in the age of 
Independence are the enemies of the people of Trinidad and Tobago. 
If a man must steal, as long as he is in his right mind he will not 
steal from himself. 

On August 31, 1962, a country will be free, a miniature state will 
be established, but a society and a nation will not have been formed, 
After August 31, 1962, the people of Trinidad and Tobago will face 
the fiercest test in their history -whether they can invest with flesh 
and blood the bare skeleton of their National Anthem, 'here ev'ry 
creed and race find an equal place*. That is their challenge. They may 
fail. Others more important and better endowed than they have failed 
conspicuously. That would be no justification for their own failure. 
But merely to make the attempt, merely to determine to succeed, 
would be an enormous tribute to their capacity, a powerful inspira- 
tion to frustrated humanity, a wonderful opportunity for self -gratifica- 
tion. This will be their final emancipation from slavery, this will be 
their final demonstration that slavery is not by nature and that the 
Humblest antecedents are not inconsistent with greatness of soul. 

For I mil make you a name and a praise among all people of the 
earth, when 1 turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the 

Brief Bibliography 

The most important source for the history of Trinidad and Tobago 
is a collection of 999 documents published by the Historical Society 
of Trinidad and Tobago and covering approximately the period 1498- 
1840, and including a number of documents on Tobago. These docu- 
ments, unfortunately, are not published in sequence -a valuable 
document relating to 1593 is likely to follow a number of documents 
relating to 1841. In addition, much of what has been reproduced is 
of no value whatsoever and merely a waste of paper. But if one has 
the time and the background knowledge to separate what is valuable 
from what is inconsequential, then this collection of documents is 
unique in the history of the West Indies and constitutes an important 
source book for the student of the history of Trinidad and Tobago. 

There are no histories of Trinidad and Tobago, using 'history' in 
the acknowledged sense. Gertrude Carmichael's recent History of 
Trinidad and Tobago is a compilation which, making the necessary 
reservation for its emphasis on Governors as the line of demarcation 
between periods, is full of useful facts, which demonstrate assiduous- 
ness on the part of the compiler that is to be highly commended. Apart 
from this there are two ancient histories of Trinidad, one by L. M. 
Fraser in two volumes -Vol. I for the period from 1781-1813, pub- 
lished in 1891; Vol. 2 for the period from 1814-1839, published in 
1896; and a French History of Trinidad under the Spanish Regime, 
from 1498-1797, by P. G. L. Borde, published in Paris in 1882. Of 
some value from a constitutional point of view is Hewan Craig's The 
Legislative Council of Trinidad and Tobago, published in 1952. A 
former Chief Justice of Tobago, H. I. Woodcock, has left us a small 
History of Tobago, published in 1867. To these must be added the 
popular narratives of Carlton Ottley: An Account of Life in Spanish 
Trinidad (from 1498-1797), published in 1955, and The Complete 
History of the Island of Tobago in the West lndies t which carries no 
date of publication. 

The Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago has also published 
two volumes, edited by the author, which are of particular import- 
ance for the period immediately preceding the abolition of slavery: 
Documents on British West Indian History, 1807-1833, which covers 
Jamaica, Barbados and British Guiana as well as Trinidad, published 
in 1952; and The British West Indies at Westminster - Part 7-1789- 
1823, published in 1954. 

Nos. III-IV of the Caribbean Historical Review, December 1954; 
another publication of the Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago, 
includes a number of selected documents on the historical background 
of the British West Indies Federation. 



Together with the 999 documents published by the Historical 
Society of Trinidad and Tobago the Reports of Commissions of En- 
quiry over the past century and a quarter constitute the principal 
source for the history of Trinidad and Tobago. The most important 
of these reports are as follows : 

Accounts of Slave Compensation Claims, 1838. 

Report from the Select Committee on West India Colonies, 1842. 

Reports of a House of Commons Committee on Sugar and Coffee 
Plantations, 1847-1848. 

Sugar Growing Colonies, Part III, Trinidad, 1853. 

Report upon the state of Education in the Island of Trinidad, by 
Patrick Joseph Keenan, Dublin, 1869. 

Report of the Royal Commission appointed in December, 1882 to 
enquire into the Public Revenues, Expenditures, Debts and 
Liabilities of the Islands of Jamaica, Grenada, St Vincent, 
Tobago and St Lucia, and the Leeward Islands. C.-3840, 1884. 

Report of the Board of Trade entitled 'Progress of the Sugar 
Trade', by T. H. Farrer, August 7, 1884. 

Report on the Coolie Disturbances of Port-of -Spain, Trinidad, 1885. 

Report of the Royal Commission to consider and report as to the 
Proposed Franchise and Division of the Colony into Electoral 
Districts, Trinidad, 1889. 

Tobago Metairie Commission, 1890. 

Railway Enquiry Commission, Trinidad, 1894. 

Roads Enquiry Commission, Trinidad, 1894. 

Report of the West India Royal Commission, C. 8655, 8657, 8667, 
8669, London, 1897 -Appendix C., Vol. II, Parts II-V. Evidence 
in British Guiana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago. 

Correspondence relating to the Re-adjustment of the Finance of 
the Borough of Port-of -Spain, Trinidad, 1898. 

Report of the Commission of Enquiry into the Recent Disturbances 
at Port-of -Spain, Trinidad, 1903. 

Further Papers relating to the Disturbances at Port-of -Spain, Trini- 
dad, in March 1903. Cd. 1988, 1904. 

Report of the Royal Commission on Trade Relations between 
Canada and the West Indies, 1910. 

Report by the Honourable E. F. L. Wood, M.P. (Parliamentary 
Under Secretary of State for the Colonies) on his visit to the West 
Indies and British Guiana, Cmd. 1679, London, 1922. 

Oil Industry of Trinidad, Report of Sir Thomas Holland, Trinidad, 

Report of the West Indian Sugar Commission, Cmd. 3517. 1930. 

Report of the West Indian Unofficial Conference in Roseau, 
Dominica, 1932. 

Report of the Closer Union Commission (Leeward Islands, Wind- 
ward Islands, Trinidad and Tobago), 1933, Cmd. 4383, London 


Report of Commission on The Trinidad and Tobago Disturbances, 
1937, Cmd. 5641, 1938. 

The records of the Legislative Council of Trinidad and Tobago 
provide invaluable material. The Chaguaxamas Bay Agreement is 
Council Paper No. 167 of 1894. The Immigration Ordinance of 1899 
will be found in the Immigration Ordinances of Trinidad and British 
Guiana, Cd. 1989, presented to Parliament in April, 1904. The debates 
of the Legislative Council provide much material on Immigration and 
Tobago. Valuable records have been preserved in Tobago including 
Despatches and Minutes of the House of Assembly. These, together 
with the files of the Port-of -Spain Gazette, are the best source for the 
relations between Trinidad and Tobago which culminated in union 
in 1899. 

There are five important accounts of the British West Indies after 
emancipation, three of them hostile and two sympathetic, which are 
essential for any analysis of British West Indian history in the nine- 
teenth century. These accounts are as follows: 

An Occasional Discourse on the Nigger Question, by Thomas 

Carlyle, London, 1848. 
The West Indies and the Spanish Main, by Anthony Trollope, 

London, 1860. 
The Ordeal of Free Labour in the British West Indies, by W. Sewell, 

New York, 1860. 
At Last: A Christmas in the West Indies, by Charles Kingsley, 

New York, 1871. 
The English in the West Indies, or the "Bovf of Ulysses, by J. 

A. Froude, London, 1887. 

To these must be added J. J. Thomas, Froudacity; West Indian 
Fables by James Anthony Froude, published in Philadelphia in 1890. 

On Captain Cipriani the best material is his speeches in the Legisla- 
tive Council and the files of the Socialist. There is also a Life of Cap- 
tain Cipriani, by C. L. R. James, 1932. 

Three general books dealing with the West Indies, though not 
exclusively with the West Indies, are of value for the history of Trini- 
dad and Tobago. They are: 

N. Deerr, The History of Sugar, two volumes, London, 1950. 
The Spanish Struggle for Justice in the Conquest of America, by 

Lewis Hanke, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1949. 
Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery, University of North 

Carolina Press, 1942. Andr6 Deutsch, 1964. 

For the Amerindians, only two works need be consulted. They 

Origins of the Tainan Culture, West Indies, by Sven Loven. 

Goteborg, 1935, 
The Aborigines of Trinidad, by J. A. Bullbrook, Trinidad, 1960. 


Attention may also be invited to two essays by the author on 
separate issues dealt with in the context of: 

The Negro Slave Trade and Anglo-Spanish Relations', in the 
Caribbean Historical Review, No. 1, December 1950; and The 
Intercolonial Slave Trade after its Abolition in 1807' in the Jour- 
nal of Negro History, April, 1942. 

In respect of Africa's importance for the history of Trinidad the 
work of Basil Davidson is all that is needed: Old Africa Rediscovered 
London, 1959; Black Mother, London, 1961, Trinidad Village, by 
M JL and R S, Herskovits, New York, 1947, is very valuable. So is 
P. J, C. Dark's, Bush Negro Art: African Art in the Americas, London 

In the general field of Race Relations, with particular reference 
to Trinidad, attention is directed to Eric Williams, The Historical 
Background of Race Relations in the Caribbean, Havana, 1957. 

With respect to the depreciation of Indian civilisation which formed 
the background to Indian immigration to Trinidad, a useful introduc- 
tion is the author's Tagore Centenary Celebration Address delivered in 
Port-of-Spain on May 6, 1961. 

The publications of the People's National Movement are of import- 
ance for the Chaguaramas issue. The two most important are From 
Slavery to Chaguaramas, 1959, and the History of Chaguaramas, 
Authorised Version, USA., a reprint of articles appearing in the 
Notion, the official organ of the People's National Movement, Both 
are the work of Eric Williams. 

A useful analysis of the background of the British West Indies 
Federation, with particular reference to Trinidad and Tobago, is 
Federation, Two public lectures, by Eric Williams, published by the 
People's National Movement in 1956. Attention is directed also to the 
Economics of Nationhood, published by the Government of Trinidad 
and Tobago on September 11, 1959. 


ACTON, Lord, 110 

APRICA, natives of compared with 
Amerindians, 3; to rescue of 
Trinidad, 29; ancient civilisation 
of, 30-9; contribution of to Trini- 
dad customs, 38-9; immigration 
to Trinidad from, 76, 98-9 

ALCAZAR, Sir Henry, 112-13, 169- 
70, 172-6 

AMERINDIANS, civilisation of, 1-4; 
enslavement of by Spaniards, 
5-6, 10, 22-5; in Tobago, 8; con- 
flict as to nature of, 8-9, 111; 
Raleigh's speech to, 18; slave 
trade in, 23; revolt in Trinidad, 
25-7; population of in Trinidad, 

ANGUIANO, Mateo de, 26 

ANTIGUA, 65; slave compensation 
in, 83-4; metairie system in, 
124-5; sugar industry in, 152-3, 
226-7; food imports in, 160-1, 

ARIMA, 3, 189 

BARBADOS, English grant of, 19; 
Caribs in, 23; policy of to 
Tobago, 53, 55-6, 58; slave 
revolt in, 63; attempt to join 
Canada, 63, 66; migration from 
to Trinidad, 74-5, 98-9; slave 
compensation in, 83-5; federa- 
tion disturbances in, 84; sugar 
industry in, 109, 152-3, 155, 
226-7; emigration from, 115; 
associated with Tobago, 131; 
opposes Windward Islands Fed- 
eration, 136-7, 250; compared 
with Trinidad, 166; food imports 
in, 227; and Federation, 249-55 
BENTINCK, Lord George, 98 
BERRIO, Antonio de, 11, 13, 17,21,27 
BOISSIERRE, Drde, 115, 143, 147 

BROOME, Sir Frederick Napier, 172 
BROUGHAM, Lord, 68-9 
BULLBROOK, J. A., 1-3 
BUTLER, T. U. B., 233-5, 236, 237, 

CABILDO, on defence of Trinidad, 
17; description of in 1757, 28-9; 
Chacon's reform of, 46; on 
constitution reform, 68; powers 
of, 72; revenues of, 82; and 
slaves, 82 

CANADA, Barbados' efforts to join, 
63; trade with Trinidad, 112; 
federation in, 252 
CANNING, George, 66 
CARIBS, civilisation of, 1-4; threat 
to Trinidad, 17-18; enslavement 
of, 23; threat to Tobago, 52; 
in Tobago, 59 
CARLYLE, Thomas, 89 
CASAS, Bartolome de las, attitude 
to Amerindians of, 9, 22-5 ; white 
colonisation plan of, 20; on 
Amerindian slave trade, 23; on 
Negro slave trade, 27 
CASTLEREAGH, Lord, 72-3 
CATON-THOMPSON, Dr Gertrude, 33 
CHACON, Jose Maria, 11; re- 
organisation of government of, 
Trinidad, 43-4; land reforms of, 
44-5; slave code of, 45-6; and 
Cabildo, 46; expansion of Port- 
of-Spain, 46-7; on defence of 
Trinidad, 47-9; on slave danger, 
49; trial and condemnation of, 
49-50; on colour problem, 49, 67 
CHAGUARAMAS, sugar cultivation in, 
46, 82; Spanish fleet in, 49; suit- 
ability of for naval base, 82; 
First Agreement on, 259-61; 
Anglo-American Agreement on, 




CHAMBERLAIN, Joseph, 172-8, 189, 
195, 216-17 

CHINA, trade with East Africa, 5; 
immigration to Trinidad, 76 

CIPRIANI, A. A., 212-13, 216, 220-4, 
242, 252 

COCOA, 22, 27, 78-9, 118-19, 162, 

COLUMBUS, Christopher, 2-5, 7-8,20 

COMMISSIONS, Royal of Legal En- 
quiry (1823), 73; West India 
Royal (1897), 112-13, 148-9, 156, 
160-1, 164-5, 227, 250-2; Royal 
Franchise (1888), 113-14, 169, 
172, 192-3, 217; Royal on 
Public Revenues (1882), 134-7, 
251; Water Riots (1903), 181-6; 
Hosea Riots (1884), 187-95; 
Major Wood (1921), 216-19, 
251-3; Sugar (1929), 226-9; 
Trinidad disturbances (1937), 
229-33 ; Closer Union (1932), 252 

CONSTANTINE, Sir Learie, 242 

CORTES, Hernan, 9, 12, 20 

CROWN COLONY system in Trinidad, 
66-73, 165-95, 260-1 ; hi Tobago, 

CUBA, 66; Amerindians in, 1, 25; 
slavery in, 45, 98 ; British proposal 
to annex, 98; sugar industry in 
compared with British West 
Indies, 109, 151-4, 226; Jamaican 
emigration to, 115; small sugar 
farmers in, 121; U.S. relations 
with, 265-7 

DAMIAN, Francis, 190 

DARK, P. J. C, 37 

DAVID, Prudhonime, 116-18, 170-1 

DAVIDSON, Basil, 33 

DOMINICA, Caribs in, 18, 23; migra- 
tion from to Trinidad, 40; 
neutrality of, 55; whites in, 70; 
slave compensation in, 83-4; 
1882 Commission on, 1 36 ; federa- 
tion conference in, 253 

DORADO, El, 13, 21 

Economist, The, 263 

ELGIN, Lord, 96 

ENGLAND, grant of West Indian 
islands by, 19; Spain's monopoly 
challenged by, 19; joint owner 
with France of St Kitts, 40; 
capture of Trinidad, 49; absentee 
landlords in Tobago, 58; slave 
compensation, 83-5; House of 
Commons on West Indies, 93-5; 
fear of U.S.A. in Caribbean, 98, 
261-3; sugar duties in, 101, 157, 
226-9; sugar interest in Trini- 
dad, 119; Federation of Wind- 
ward Islands, 132, 136-7, 249-51; 
on union of Trinidad and Tobago, 
139-50; beet sugar in, 155-6, 159; 
market for Trinidad sugar, 157; 
interest in Trinidad oil, 215; and 
West Indian Federation, 250^-6; 
and Canadian Federation, 252; 
and Federal Government, 257, 
258; and Chaguaramas, 259-61, 

EUROPE, colonialism in, 5; slavery 
in, 5; sugar in, 6, 154-6; political 
development of, 6; Common 
Market of, 257; war scare of 
1898, 264-5 

FRANCE, population, 12; natives 
living in Spain, 12; lords of 
West Indies, 18-19; Spain's 
monopoly challenged by, 19; 
to rescue of Trinidad, 29, 40-50; 
joint owner with England of St 
Kitts, 40; policy to Tobago of, 
51, 52-4; emancipation in, 88, 95 ; 
beet sugar in, 154-6, 158-9 

FRAZER, Alexander, 135 

FREELING, Sir Sanford, 190 

FREYRE, Gilberto, 37 

FROBENIUS, Leo, 34, 36-7 

FROXJDE, J. A., on Negro inferiority, 
32, 34, 110; on constitution 
reform in Trinidad, 167-70, 176, 
189, 195, 216; Thomas on, 190-2 

GALVAN, Manuel de, 25 



GENOA, 5, 7 

GERMANY, plantation in St Thomas 
of, 40; immigration from to 
Trinidad, 74 ; beet sugar in, 1 54-6 ; 
fear of Caribbean bases of, 267 

GODERICH, Lord, 67, 73 

GOLD, 10, 12, 21 

GOODWILLS, George, 190 

GORDON, Sir Arthur, 200 

GORRIE, Sir John, 124-9 

GRENADA, Caribs in, 18; immigra- 
tion to Trinidad from, 40, 99; 
immigration to Tobago from, 
57-8; absentee landlords from in 
Tobago, 58 ; slave compensation 
in, 83-4; Indian immigration in, 
100; associated with Tobago, 
131; 1882 Commission on, 
134-7; capital of Windward 
Islands Federation, 136; loan to 
Tobago, 142; sugar industry 
in, 164; capital of Federation, 

GUADELOUPE, 40, 66, 100 

GUIANA, 1-3, 21 

GUIANA, BRITISH, slave revolt in, 
62; migration to, 75; slave com- 
pensation in, 83-4; labour pro- 
blem after emancipation, 92-4, 
95; Indian immigration in, 99- 
100, 107, 109, 115, 119-20; sugar 
industry in, 153, 156, 160, 226-7; 
compared with Trinidad, 166; 
suspension of constitution of, 
179; food imports in, 227 


GUPPY, Lechmere, on housing of 
Indian immigrants, 105-6; 
opposed to Indian immigration, 
113-14; opposed to sugar 
planters, 114; on constitution 
reform, 170, 190 

HARDINGE, Lord, 215 

HARRIS, Lord, on emancipation, 96; 
on African and Indian immi- 
grants, 110-11; on education, 

HERSKOVITS, M. J., 38-9 

HISPANIOLA, Amerindians in, 2-3, 
25; clash of cultures in, 8; the 
Exclusive in, 20; white settlers in, 
20; Amerindians slave trade to, 
23 ; Negro slavery in, 27 

HOLLAND, trade with Trinidad of, 
13, 15-16; joint owner with 
France of St Martin, 40; interest 
of in Tobago, 51, 53-5; beet 
sugar in, 154 

HOWICK, Lord, 86-7 

HUME, David, 30, 33-4, 37, 110 

INDIA, sugar in, 6; immigration 
from to Trinidad, 77, 99-121; 
immigration from to West Indies, 
100; civilisation maligned, 109- 
1 ; nationalist movement opposes 
indentured immigration, 215-16 

INDIES, Council of, 13, 16, 18, 21 

JAMAICA, slavery in, 45, 63; policy 
of to Tobago, 54-5; development 
of, 66-7; slave compensation of, 
83-5; 1865 rebellion in, 84-5, 
89, 132, 178; sugar industry in, 
94, 152-3, 155, 226-8; Lord 
Elgin on immigration to, 96; 
India immigration in, 99-100; 
emigration from, 1 1 5 ; 1 882 Com- 
mission on, 134-5; compared 
with Trinidad, 166; representa- 
tive government in, 167; food 
imports in, 227; and Federation, 
252, 253-6; U.S. base in, 267-8 

JEFFERSON, Thomas, 31, 34 

KEENAN, P. I, 200-7 
KIMBERLEY, Earl of, 247 
KINGSLEY, Charles, 161-4 
KNUTSFORD, Earl of, 247 

LABAT, Pfcre, 164 
LEOTAUD, Charles, 118 
LIVERPOOL, Lord, 69-72 
LONG, Edward, 31 
LONGDEN, Sir Walter, 189 
LOVEN, Sven, 1, 4 



MACAULAY, Lord, 110 
MACLEOD, Sir Henry, 196 
MARTINIQUE, Caribs in, 23; migra- 
tion to Trinidad from, 40; French 
Revolution in, 63; competition 
of with beet sugar, 156 
MAYARO, 75, 81 
MEXICO, 3, 8, 11-12, 20-1, 159 
MONTSERRAT, slave compensation, 
83-4; sugar industry in, 152, 164 
MUSGRAVE, Sir Anthony, 100 

NEGROES, compared with Amerin- 
dians, 3; as substitutes for Amer- 
indians, 27; alleged inferiority of, 
30-3, 111; slave code for, 45-6; 
slaves in Trinidad, 47, 65-85; 
slaves in Tobago, 58-9, 122-3, 
130-1; compensation for slaves, 
82-5, 95 

NEVIS, 83-4 

NORMAN, Sir Henry, 187, 188 

OLNEY, Richard, 261 
O'REILLY, Sir L. A. P., 212-14, 
220-1, 237 

PAPAL Donation, 7, 19, 264 


PERU, 8, 12, 21 

PHILLIP, Maxwell, 142 

PICTON, Sir Thomas, 69, 74, 81 

Pnr,Dr David, 237 

PIZARRO, 9, 12, 56, 132 

PLYMOUTH, 56, 132 

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Caribs in, 3; Dutch 
ships in, 13; expansion of, 46-7; 
Franco-British quarrel in, 47; 
fire in, 79-80; Indian immigra- 
tion to, 102; City Council of 
172-9, 217, 223; water riots in, 
179-86; carnival in, 186-8; 
schools in, 200, 210; 1937 dis- 
turbances in, 23 3 ; Butler defeated, 

Port-of-Spain Gazette, 87-8 

PORTUGAL, African penetration by, 
5; colonialism in Asia of, 5; 

slavery in, 5; rejects Columbus' 
proposals, 7; natives of in Trini- 
dad, 21, 97; relations with 
Congo of, 35-6 

PUERTO Rico, 11, 17, 24, 60, 121, 
154, 265 

RALEIGH, Sir Walter, 18 
RAYNALL, Abbe, 22 
ROBINSON, Sir RE., 131 
ROBINSON, Sir William, 127-8, 143, 

189, 260 
RUSSELL, Lord John, 92-3 

ST DOMINIGUE (Haiti), 45, 63, 90, 


ST JOSEPH, burnt by Raleigh, 18; 
burnt by Dutch, 18; trial of 
Amerindian rebels at, 25; symbol 
of Spanish ineptitude, 28 ; Cabildo 
removed from, 46, 79 
ST Krrrs, 65; Anglo-French owner- 
ship of, 40; absentee landlords of 
in Tobago, 58; slave compensa- 
tion in, 83-4; sugar industry in, 
152, 226-7; food imports in, 227 
ST LUCIA, Caribs in, 23; migration 
from to Trinidad, 40; neutrality 
of, 55; slave compensation in, 
83-4; metairie system in, 121; 
1882 Commission on, 134-6; 
Federation proposals, 136, 137, 
138; sugar industry in, 226-7 
ST VINCENT, Caribs in, 23; migra- 
tion from to Trinidad, 40; neutra- 
lity of, 55; absentee landlords of 
in Tobago, 58; slave compensa- 
tion in, 83-4; sugar industry in, 
109, 164; associated with Tobago, 
131, 164; 1882 Commission on, 

SAN FERNANDO, fire in, 80; on 
constitution reform, 171-2; 
borough rates in, 175; Hosea 
disturbances in, 187-9; water 
works in, 189-91 

SCARBOROUGH, 56, 57-8, 60, 123, 



SCHOELCHER, Victor, 88, 95, 121 

COLONIES, quoted, Lord Gode- 
rich, 67, 73; Lord Liverpool, 
69-72; Lord Castlereagh, 72-3; 
Lord John Russell, 92-3; Joseph 
Chamberlain, 174-8; Lord Stan- 
ley, 197-8; Lord Knutsford, 
209-10; Earl of Kimberley, 249 

SEDENO, Antonio, 1 1, 20 

SEPULVEDA, Gines de, 9, 32 

SEVILLE, 10, 15 

SEWELL, William, 90-1 

SffiGERT, Mr, 259-60 

SLAVERY, see under name of country 

SOLOMON, Dr. P. V. J., 237-42 

SPAIN, slavery in, 5; sugar in, 6; 
colonialism in, 6-7, 10-29, 48-9; 
Columbus' proposals to, 6-7; 
Amerindian policy, of, 8-10, 27; 
population problem, 12, 20-1, 
41-2; the Exclusive in, 10-16, 43; 
military incapacity of, 16-18, 
47-50; Papal Donation to, 7, 19, 
264; policy of to Tobago, 54; and 
Britain's policy to slave trade, 98 ; 
war with U.S.A., 263 

STANLEY, Lord, 197-8 

STEPHEN, James, 67, 90, 99 

SUGAR, in Mediterranean, 6; in 
India, 6; Spanish incentives to, 
42; in Tobago, 57-9; in Trinidad, 
73-4, 78, 82, 226-9; and Indian 
immigration in Trinidad, 107-21 ; 
Trinidad planters oppose union 
with Tobago, 143^, 145-8; 
bankruptcy of in West Indies, 
151-66; planters of on education 
in Trinidad, 211-14; world over- 
production of, 226; West Indian 
independence on, 226-7; quota 

SURINAM, Amerindian civilisation 
in, 1; Bush Negroes of, 37-8; 
absentee landlords of in Tobago, 
58; Negro slavery in, 84; Indian 
immigration in, 100, 106-7, 120; 
diversification in, 164 

TENNANT, Sir Charles, 121 

THOMAS, J.J., 189-92 

THOMPSON, George, 99 

TOBACCO, Amerindian cultivation 
of, 2; in Tobago, 8, 55; in 
Trinidad, 13, 15, 22 

TOBAGO, Amerindians in, 8, 55; 
English grants of, 19, 51-64; 
Assembly of, 56, 57, 63, 122-3, 
138; migration from to Trinidad, 
57, 147; absentee ownership in, 
58; population of, 58; slavery in, 
58-62, 83-5, 122-3, 130-1, 164; 
whites in, 58 ; sugar in, 55-9, 124- 
9, 152; production in, 59; gover- 
nors quoted, 59, 131-4; Legisla- 
ture, of, 57, 59-62, 123, 130, 138- 
40; and Bonaparte, 63-4; slave 
compensation in, 83-5; metairie 
system in, 121, 125-9; hurricane 
in, 123; immigration to, 123-4, 
129; bankruptcy of, 129; fran- 
chise in, 131-2; Crown Colony 
system in, 132-4; Belmanna riots 
in, 133-4; 1882 Commission on, 
134-7, 141 ; union with Trinidad, 
137-50; representation in Legisla- 
ture in Trinidad, 194, 212 

Toco, 38-9, 148 

TRADE, House of, 10, 15, 17 

TRINIDAD, Amerindians in, 1-4, 
25-7, 47, 76; Caribs in, 1-4, 17- 
1 8, 23 ; discovery of by Columbus, 
7-8,11; clash of cultures in, 8-9 ; 
tobacco in, 13, 15, 22; the Exclu- 
sive in, 10-16, 41-2; Spanish colo- 
nialism in, 10-29, 41-50; defence 
problems of, 16-18, 47-50; Dutch 
attack on, 18; Raleigh in, 18; 
St Joseph, 18, 25, 28, 46, 79; 
Cabildo of, 17, 28-9, 46, 68, 72-3, 
82; English grant of, 19; Portu- 
gese in, 21 ; gold in, 21 ; cocoa in, 
22, 27, 78-9, 118-19, 162, 229; 
Roman Catholic Church in, 22, 
203-5; Las Casas on, 22, 23-5; 
Arena Massacre in, 25-7; Negro 
slavery in, 27, 45-8, 77-8, 82-5; 
governors of, quoted, 18, 69, 



74, 75-7, 96, 127-8, 172, 186-8, 
196, 234-5, 260; governors of 
described, 28, 189-91, 271; Afri- 
can contribution to, 38-9; French 
influence in, 40, 50, 204-6; 
migration from smaller islands 
to, 40, 75; 1783 Credula of 
population in, 41-2, 45; 1790 
European loan of, 43; adminis- 
trative reorganisation of, 43-4; 
land titles in, 44-5; Port-of- 
Spain, 13, 46-7, 79-80, 102, 
172-88, 200, 210, 216-17, 234, 
237; population of, 47, 67, 200; 
colour problem in, 47-8, 66-74; 
production of, 47, 78, 229; 
British capture of, 49; attack 
on Tobago from, 54; a model 
British slave colony, 65-85; 
Crown Colony system, 67-73, 
86-7, 165-95, 209-14, 231-7, 
259-61; constitution reform in, 
68-73, 167-72, 189-95, 215-41, 
244; first Legislative Council in, 
73, 79-80, 193-4; sugar in, 73-4, 
78, 151-66, 226-9; European 
immigration to, 74-6, 96-7; 
Order in Council of 1823, 77-8; 
San Fernando, 80, 171-3, 187-90; 
bad bread in, 80; Medical 
Board in, 80-1; smallpox in, 
81; illegal immigrants in, 81; 
education, 81, 196-214, 245; 
slave compensation in, 82-5; 
labour problem in, 86-101 ; small 
fanning in, 86-7, 90, 162; land 
grant in, 87, 120; Port-of-Spain 
Gazette, 87-8, 146-7; Emancipa- 
tion day in, 87-8; abandonment 
of estates, 95; immigration Ordi- 
nance in, 102-8; housing in, 
102-3, 105-6, 108-9, 230-1; 
description of Indians in, 111; 
trade with Canada of, 111-12; 
Indian landowners in, 119-20, 
216; cane farmers in, 216; union 
of with Tobago, 137-50; 1897 
Commission on, 166; comparison 
of with other territories, 166, 

228-9; City Council of, 172-9, 
217, 223; water riots in, 179-86, 
217, 233; carnival in, 186-7, 233; 
Hosea riots in, 187-90, 233; 
Indian children in, 210-14; move- 
ment for self-government in, 
215-41; oil in, 215, 225-6, 229, 
232-6; franchise in, 219-20; 
qualifications for Legislative 
Council of, 218-20; labour move- 
ment in, 220-4, 231-2; road to 
independence, 242-77; party 
politics in, 242-7; economic 
development, 244-5; political 
stability of, 247; art and culture 
in, 247-8; and Federation, 249- 
56; Capital site of Federation, 
254; and Federal government, 
257, 258-9; and Chaguaramas, 
267-77; Independence Confer- 
ence, 277 

TROLLOPE, Anthony, 31-2, 33, 34, 
90, 110 

U.SA., attraction of for French 
West Indies, 40; expansion in 
Caribbean, 98, 261-7; Jamaican 
emigration to, 115; capital in 
Cuban sugar, 1 55, 265 ; beet sugar 
in, 1 55-60 ; Trinidad sugar exports 
to, 157-60; costs of sugar pro- 
duction, 226; and Chaguaramas 
259, 267-77; and Cuba, 265-7 

VENEZUELA, 14, 20 ; Amerindians in, 
2-3; white colonisation plan in, 
20; trade with Trinidad, 79, 
257-9; boundary dispute with 
British Guiana, 261-3 

VENICE, 5, 7 


WARNER, Frederick, 143 
WILLIAMS, Dr Eric, 242 
WIMPFFEN, Baron de, 89-90 
WINANT, John, 270-1 
WOODCOCK, Henry, 124, 131 
WOODFORD, Sir Ralph, 75-6, 81